Summer 2017 Potato Hack…Spudology 101

Amaze your friends with these facts and nomenclature stolen from around the worldwide web.



  • The potato is a herbaceous plant of the Solanaceae, or nightshade family, which contains several other well known cultivated crops such as tomato, eggplant, tobacco and pepper.
  • The cultivated Solanum tuberosum subsp. tuberosum is considered to be originated from Andean and Chilean landraces developed by pre-Colombian cultivators. The wild species progenitors of these landraces probably derived from a group of ~20 similar wild species referred to as S. brevicaule complex, distributed from central Peru to northern Argentina.
  • Potato is the only major tuber crop that is grown in temperate regions. It is also most important tuber crop in terms of production, accounting for about 45% of the total world production of all tuber crops (five species together account for almost 90% of total world production – potato, cassava, sweet potato, yams, and taro).
  • Glycoprotein patatin constitutes about 20% of the total soluble protein in potato. The patatin exhibit enzymatic activity and is believed to play a role in defense against pests and pathogens. It also may elicit allergic responses in humans.
  • Potato fruits, stems and leaves contain glycoalkaloids, toxic compounds, of which the most prevalent are solanine and chaconine.
  • Potato’s infamous pathogen is an oomycetes Phytophthora infestans (late blight, potato blight).

The potato plant has a short life span ranging from 80 to 150 days from planting to maturity, with differences existing between varieties. Its developmental stages are often described in terms of tuberization and tuber development. The life cycle of a potato tuber is characterized by initiation and growth followed by a period of dormancy and finally sprouting resulting in the next (vegetative) generation.

  • Sprouting tuber Growth stage 1. The onset of sprout growth that follows dormancy termination is accompanied by substantial increases in cell metabolism; sprouts appear from the eyes of the primary tuber.
  • Vegetative Growth stage 2. Plant establishment. All vegetative parts of the plants (leaves, branches, roots and stolons) are formed; stages 1 and 2 last from 30 to 70 days depending on planting date, soil temperature and other environmental factors, the physiological age of the tubers, and the characteristics of particular cultivars.
  • Tuber initiation Growth stage 3. Approximately 30-60 days after the seed tuber is planted, tuber formation begins. Ttubers are derived from lateral underground buds developing at the base of the main stem that when kept underground develop into stolons due to diagravitropical growth. When the conditions are favorable for tuber initiation, the elongation of the stolon stops, and cells located in the pith and the cortex of the apical region of the stolon first enlarge and then later divide longitudinally. The combination of these processes results in the swelling of the subapical part of the stolon.
  • Developing tuber Growth stage 4. During enlargement tubers become the largest sink of the potato plant storing massive amounts of carbohydrates (mainly starch) and also significant amounts of protein. Furthermore, tubers decrease their general metabolic activity and as such behave as typical storage sinks.
  • Mature tuber Growth stage 5. Potato tubers are harvested from 90 to 160 days after planting and this may vary with cultivars, production area, and marketing conditions. Starch the typically represents 20% of the fresh weight of mature tuber. After potato vines die back the skin of tuber thickens and hardens, which provides greater protection to tubers during harvest and blocks entry of pathogens to the tuber.
  • Dormant tuber Although dormancy is defined as the absence of visible growth, dormant meristems are metabolically active. In general, rates of many cellular processes such as respiration, transcription, and translation are suppressed during dormancy. Non-dividing, dormant tuber meristems are arrested in the G-1 phase.





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