Miller, J. Creighton, Jr. Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Department of Horticultural Science, College of Agriculture, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.
Thurston, H. David Department of Plant Pathology, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
Last reviewed:January 2021
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A plant belonging to the genus Solanum in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) that produces an edible tuber. There are more than 2000 species of Solanum (order Solanales), of which approximately 150 bear tubers. The potato of commerce, S. tuberosum (Fig. 1), originated in South America, probably in the highlands of Peru and Bolivia, where it has been cultivated for several thousand years. Potatoes, which are related to tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers, were introduced into Europe by Spanish explorers in the late sixteenth century and into the United States from Ireland in 1719. The crop became a staple in Europe, was a primary source of food in Ireland, and is known today as the Irish potato; it is also called white potato. The potato blight famine in Ireland during 1845 and 1846, which was caused by the fungus Phytophthora infestans, was responsible for the death of more than 1 million Irish people and the emigration of about 1.5 million others. See also: Horticultural crops; Solanales
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