Protecting Potato Diversity in Peru

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Six different types of potatoes cross-cut to show the different colors of the respective flesh, including white, yellow, and purple.
Different varieties of arracacha, an Andean root crop. © International Potato Center/J. Miller

Over the next two weeks, a team from Science Bulletins, the Museum’s multimedia online and exhibition program, will visit Peru to film a short
documentary about protecting potato biodiversity in the region. Producer Tania Van Bergen, who is traveling to Lima and to the Huancavelica region, will be sending photos and dispatches from her trip in the coming weeks.

First, Van Bergen will travel to Lima’s International Potato Center, an organization that works with farmers to maintain the diversity of native potatoes through its gene bank. The center houses more than 7,000 potato and wild potato samples and provides assistance to farmers if they lose a crop. The Science Bulletins crew will be documenting the center’s extensive collection of tubers, seeds, and plantlets and learning how the collection is maintained.

Van Bergen will then travel with potato breeders Maria Scurrah and Stef de Haan to Peru’s Huancavelica region, where the crew will document the harvest and testing of both native and new varieties of potatoes. Potato breeders from the center work with farmers to breed new varieties that are resistant to diseases, have more nutritional value—for example, higher amounts of iron, zinc, and vitamin C—and shorter growing seasons to safeguard against climate change. The new varieties from Huancavelica will be tested for preferred qualities that include good taste, texture, and high yield.

Look for updates from Van Bergen’s journey on Twitter and Flickr. And if you’re interested in learning more about growing, transporting, and celebrating food, watch this space for news about the Museum’s exhibition about food in fall 2012.