Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Solanum tuberosum
(potato)

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Datasheet

Solanum tuberosum (potato)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Solanum tuberosum
  • Preferred Common Name
  • potato
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Solanum tuberosum is native to Central and South America, but is now widely naturalized beyond its native range in extra-tropical regions and is considered a weed in many places including Australia, Indonesia,...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Solanum tuberosum (potato); habit, as an invasive, at a fire area spatter vent. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2007.
TitleHabit
CaptionSolanum tuberosum (potato); habit, as an invasive, at a fire area spatter vent. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2007.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Solanum tuberosum (potato); habit, as an invasive, at a fire area spatter vent. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2007.
HabitSolanum tuberosum (potato); habit, as an invasive, at a fire area spatter vent. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2007.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Solanum tuberosum (potato); leaves. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2007.
TitleLeaves
CaptionSolanum tuberosum (potato); leaves. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2007.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Solanum tuberosum (potato); leaves. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2007.
LeavesSolanum tuberosum (potato); leaves. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2007.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Solanum tuberosum (potato); white flowers. Kula Agriculture Station, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012.
TitleFlowers
CaptionSolanum tuberosum (potato); white flowers. Kula Agriculture Station, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Solanum tuberosum (potato); white flowers. Kula Agriculture Station, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012.
FlowersSolanum tuberosum (potato); white flowers. Kula Agriculture Station, Maui, Hawaii, USA. June, 2012.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Solanum tuberosum (potato); purple flowers.
TitleFlowers
CaptionSolanum tuberosum (potato); purple flowers.
CopyrightPublic Domain - Released by the USDA, original photographer Ken Weller/USDA ARS
Solanum tuberosum (potato); purple flowers.
FlowersSolanum tuberosum (potato); purple flowers.Public Domain - Released by the USDA, original photographer Ken Weller/USDA ARS
Solanum tuberosum (potato); fruits, which are typical of Solanacae and, poisonous. They contain solanine, a substance that is toxic to humans, particularly children. Hawea Place, Olinda, Maui, Hawaii, USA. July, 2011.
TitleFruits
CaptionSolanum tuberosum (potato); fruits, which are typical of Solanacae and, poisonous. They contain solanine, a substance that is toxic to humans, particularly children. Hawea Place, Olinda, Maui, Hawaii, USA. July, 2011.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Solanum tuberosum (potato); fruits, which are typical of Solanacae and, poisonous. They contain solanine, a substance that is toxic to humans, particularly children. Hawea Place, Olinda, Maui, Hawaii, USA. July, 2011.
FruitsSolanum tuberosum (potato); fruits, which are typical of Solanacae and, poisonous. They contain solanine, a substance that is toxic to humans, particularly children. Hawea Place, Olinda, Maui, Hawaii, USA. July, 2011.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Solanum tuberosum (potato); leaves, stem and a small potato tuber. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2007.
TitleLeaves, stem and tuber
CaptionSolanum tuberosum (potato); leaves, stem and a small potato tuber. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2007.
Copyright©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0
Solanum tuberosum (potato); leaves, stem and a small potato tuber. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2007.
Leaves, stem and tuberSolanum tuberosum (potato); leaves, stem and a small potato tuber. Polipoli, Maui, Hawaii, USA. September, 2007.©Forest Starr & Kim Starr - CC BY 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Solanum tuberosum L.

Preferred Common Name

  • potato

Other Scientific Names

  • Solanum cultum (A. DC.) Berth.
  • Solanum esculentum Neck.
  • Solanum tuberosum subsp. andigena Hawkes
  • Solanum tuberosum subsp. tuberosum (L.) Hawkes

International Common Names

  • English: English potato; Irish potato; white potato
  • Spanish: papa; patata
  • French: pomme de terre
  • Russian: kartofel'
  • Chinese: ma ling shu; yang shu
  • Portuguese: batata

Local Common Names

  • Cambodia: dâmlông barang
  • Croatia: krumpir
  • Czech Republic: brambor
  • Germany: Kartoffel
  • Haiti: parmentiére; pomme té; prome té
  • Indonesia: kentang
  • Ireland: práta
  • Italy: patata; pomo di terra
  • Laos: man fàlangx
  • Malaysia: ubi kentang; ubi kenteng
  • Myanmar: ah-lu; ahr-lu; ar-loo
  • Netherlands: aardappel
  • Papua New Guinea: poteto
  • Philippines: papas; patatas
  • Poland: ziemniak
  • Portugal: batata
  • Slovakia: zemiak
  • Slovenia: krumpir
  • Sweden: potatis
  • Thailand: man-alu; man-farang
  • Turkey: patates
  • Ukraine: kartoplya
  • Vietnam: khoai taay

EPPO code

  • SOLTU (Solanum tuberosum)

Summary of Invasiveness

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Solanum tuberosum is native to Central and South America, but is now widely naturalized beyond its native range in extra-tropical regions and is considered a weed in many places including Australia, Indonesia, Micronesia, India, and Turkey (Holm et al., 1979; Randall, 2012). It has been declared a noxious weed in the United States, Turkey and South Africa (Randall, 2012) and listed in the American Lands Alliance’s “Worst Invasive Species in the conterminous United States” list (Randall, 2012). It is considered an agricultural weed on plantations and cultivated fields in parts of the Pacific Islands where it has been introduced (Randall, 2012). Because of the species’ global importance as a staple food crop, caution and vigilance is essential when cultivating the species in order to minimize escape into the wild.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Solanales
  •                         Family: Solanaceae
  •                             Genus: Solanum
  •                                 Species: Solanum tuberosum

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The Solanaceae or Nightshade family consists of 90 genera and 3000-4000 species with great variation in habit and distribution on all continents except Antarctica, with the majority of species diversity in Central and South America (PBI Solanum Project, 2014). This family includes some of the world’s most important crop plant species, including potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes, as well as some of the world’s deadliest plant species, including belladonna (Atropa belladonna), jimsonweed (Datura stramonium), satan’s apple (Mandragora officinarum) and black henbane (Hyoscyamus niger).

Solanum is one of the largest genera of vascular plants with between 1000 and 1500 species, 1000 of which are speculated to be of American origin (Hunziker, 1979). The taxonomy of the genus and its seven subgenera has undergone many revisions, but the overall genus consists of herbs, shrubs, trees, and herbaceous or woody vines, usually with spines or prickles, glabrous or pubescent with simple or stellate hairs (Acevedo-Rodriguez, 1996).

The genus Solanum includes the potato, S. tuberosum, the tomato, S. lycopersicum, and the aubergine, S. melongena, with many other members cultivated for medicinal and ornamental uses. While the etymology of the genus’ scientific name is unclear, it may be derived from the Latin word “sol”, meaning "sun," referring to its affinity for sunlight, or from the Latin word “solare”, meaning "to soothe”, the Latin word “solamen”, meaning "a comfort", or the Akkadian word “sululu”, meaning “happy”, in reference to the narcotic effects of some Solanum species after ingestion (Smith, 1971; Wiart, 2006; Quattrocchi, 2012; NZPCN, 2014).

The potato is among the world’s most important crop plants. There are over 5000 cultivars of this species, due to its long and widespread cultivation throughout the world. The species name tuberosum refers to this global use of the tuber as a food.

S. tuberosum is a complex species with diploid, triploid and tetraploid representatives. The tetraploid plants are most important worldwide; they are classified into two cultivar groups: cv. group Andigena (S. tuberosum subsp. andigena) and cv. group Tuberosum (S. tuberosum subsp. tuberosum). The tetraploid subspecies andigena is reportedly derived from a natural cross of the diploid cultivated potato S. stenotomum and the diploid weedy species S. sparsipilum, resulting in a doubled chromosome count (Cribb and Hawkes, 1986; D’Arcy, 1986), with the subspecies tuberosum reportedly derived from andigena through gene mutation and selection in Chile and Europe (Cribb and Hawkes, 1986).

Description

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S. tuberosum is an erect, juicy herb with numerous fleshy, robust, angular, branched stems up to 1.2 m tall and subterranean tubiform stolons. Root system usually 40-50 cm deep, without obstructions up to 1 m. Tubers developing at the tip of the stolons, globose to ellipsoid, very variable in size, weight and colour; tuber skin with scars of scale leaves ('eyebrows'), axillary buds ('eyes', usually several eye buds per eyebrow), numerous lenticels, almost impermeable to chemicals, gases and liquids, providing good protection against microorganisms and water loss; number of eyes very variable, normally about 10-15 on a tuber of 50 g.

Stems up to 1.5 cm in diameter, usually hollow, winged; wings sometimes decurrent and undulate-crenulate. Leaves alternate, petiolate, odd pinnately compound, with or without numerous interstitial leaflets, in outline 10-30 cm x 5-15 cm; lateral leaflets opposite or alternate, usually 3-4 pairs, very unequal in size, largest ones stalked, ovate to ovate-elliptical, 2-10 cm x 1-6 cm, smallest ones subsessile, ovate to suborbicular, 1-15 mm in diameter; terminal leaflet usually largest; all leaflets thinly to densely pubescent, dark green, pinnatinerved. Inflorescence a many-flowered cymose panicle, sometimes with small bracteoles; peduncle 5-15 cm long, branching above; pedicel up to 3.5 cm long, articulate at or above the middle; flowers white or white suffused with pink or violet, typically with a greenish-yellow central star; calyx campanulate, 1.5-2 cm in diameter, deeply 5-partite, pubescent outside; corolla subrotate to rotate-stellate, 2-4 cm in diameter, with 5 acuminate lobes, finely veined, pubescent outside; anthers 5, 5-7 mm long, free, erect but slightly curved around the style, yellow, dehiscence by 2 apical pores, each on a short, thick filament; style up to 13 mm long, stigma clavellate to capitate. Fruit a subglobose berry, up to 2 cm in diameter, yellow-green, 2-carpellate, many-seeded, poisonous. Seed flat, subcircular to ovate, 1-3 mm in diameter, pale yellow-brownish.

Plant Type

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Perennial
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated

Distribution

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The species of Solanum are considered native to Central and South America, mainly to the highland plains ('puna') and Andes mountains between 40°N and 45°S. S. tuberosum is considered native to the Peruvian-Bolivian Andes region, but has been introduced to most parts of the world. It is cultivated throughout the West Indies (Acevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012) and the upland regions of Mesoamerica (Gentry and D’Arcy, 1986), as well as throughout Europe, in much of Asia, and in many other regions. The Distribution Table does not list all the countries where S. tuberosum is grown as a crop.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

ChinaPresentIntroducedAn-ming, 1986; Randall, 2012; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2014
IndiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2014
JapanPresentIntroducedRandall, 2012Naturalized
PakistanPresent only in captivity/cultivationFlora of Pakistan, 2014
TaiwanPresentTaiwan Plant Names, 2014
TurkeyPresentHolm et al., 1979

Africa

South AfricaPresentIntroducedRandall, 2012Noxious weed
Spain
-Canary IslandsPresentIntroducedRandall, 2012Naturalized

North America

MexicoPresentUSDA-ARS, 2014
USAPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedWagner et al., 2014Naturalized on Maui
-MissouriPresentIntroducedFlora of Missouri, 2014
-North CarolinaPresentRandall, 2012Weed

Central America and Caribbean

Cayman IslandsPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Costa RicaPresentFlora Mesoamericana, 2014
CubaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
Dominican RepublicPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
HaitiPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012
JamaicaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroduced
NicaraguaPresentFlora Mesoamericana, 2014
PanamaPresentFlora Mesoamericana, 2014; Panama Checklist, 2014
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedAcevedo-Rodriguez and Strong, 2012

South America

ArgentinaPresentUSDA-ARS, 2014
BoliviaPresentNativeBolivia Checklist, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014Chuquisaca, La Paz, Oruro, Potosi, Cochabamba
ChilePresentUSDA-ARS, 2014
ColombiaPresentUSDA-ARS, 2014; Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014Guarne, La Unión, Marinilla, Medellín, San Vicente
EcuadorPresentUSDA-ARS, 2014; Vascular Plants of Ecuador, 2014Prov. Cañar, Carchi, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, Galapagos, Napo, Pichincha, Sucumbíos, Tungurahua
PeruPresentPeru Checklist, 2014; USDA-ARS, 2014
VenezuelaPresentUSDA-ARS, 2014

Europe

DenmarkPresentIntroducedRandall, 2012Cultivation escape
FinlandPresentIntroducedHolm et al., 1979; Randall, 2012Cultivation escape
SpainPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
UKPresentIntroducedRandall, 2012

Oceania

AustraliaPresentIntroducedRandall, 2012
-QueenslandPresentIntroducedRandall, 2012Environmental weed: cultivation escape
New ZealandPresentIntroducedNZPCN, 2014Naturalized in 1853
Papua New GuineaPresent only in captivity/cultivationIntroducedSymon, 1986
VanuatuPresentRandall, 2012

History of Introduction and Spread

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The species of Solanum are considered native to Central and South America, mainly to the highland plains ('puna') and Andes mountains between 40°N and 45°S. S. tuberosum includes thousands of varieties that vary by size, shape, colour, and other sensory characteristics. The cultivated potato originated in the Peru-Colombia-Chile region of the South American Andes, but has a wide-ranging centre of diversity from Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile across the Pampa and Chaco regions of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and southern Brazil and northward into Central America, Mexico, and the southwestern United States (Kiple and Ornelas, 2000; Wagner et al., 2014). Based on archaeological and genetic evidence the first domestications occurred at least 8000 years ago in the high Andes of Peru and Bolivia (Hunziker, 1979; Cribb and Hawkes, 1986), and during the Spanish conquest the cultivated potato was being grown in the Andes, from Venezuela to northern Argentina and into the lowland regions of Chile (Cribb and Hawkes, 1986).

Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618) is often credited with first introducing the potato to Europe when he brought it back with him from Virginia and planted it near Cork, Ireland (Duke, 1983); however this is incorrect, as trade records show the Spanish conquistadors had been cultivating and exporting potatoes from Tenerife and Gran Canaria to continental Europe as early as 1567, only 30 years after the first written observation of the species in South America, and providing evidence that the species was likely first brought from the Americas to the Canary Islands, and from there to continental Spain and the rest of Europe (Candolle, 1885; Hawkes and Francisco-Ortega, 1993). The species was initially used in Europe to feed pigs, before becoming a staple crop for humans (Wiart, 2006).

During the 18th and 19th Centuries the potato was introduced into several tropical and subtropical countries, including the South-East Asian region, mainly by colonists from Europe. It was introduced into Papua New Guinea in the early 1930s, where it is now a popular cash crop in the highlands at altitudes above 1500 m.

Date of introduction to the West Indies is uncertain. The species was not included in Bello’s works (1881; 1883) or in Urban’s work on the Antilles (1898-1928), but the species was included in Britton’s 1918 work on Bermuda, where he reported it had been cultivated “since the early days of the colony”. A specimen of the species was collected in Haiti in 1928 (Smithsonian Herbarium Collection).

The species has been present in Africa as a widely cultivated food crop since at least the early 19th century (Jaeger and Hepper, 1986).

Risk of Introduction

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Based on the current literature, the species poses a risk to native flora. It is a declared noxious weed in the United States and South Africa (Randall, 2012; USDA-NRCS, 2014) and listed in the American Lands Alliance’s “Worst Invasive Species in the conterminous United States” list (Randall, 2012). It is considered an agricultural weed on plantations and cultivated fields in parts of the Pacific Islands where it has been introduced (Randall, 2012). Because of the species’ global importance as a staple food crop both in the international commercial industry and on the local scale, caution and vigilance is essential when cultivating the species in order to minimize cultivation escape into the wild.

Habitat

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S. tuberosum is one of the most important food crops of the world, and grown in cool-temperate regions and at higher altitudes in the tropics (Wagner et al., 2014). It is native to the mountainous areas of Bolivia, Chile and Peru. It is an important food crop in the mountainous countryside of China (An-ming, 1986). In Antioquia, Colombia the species has been reported growing in Lower Montane Rain Forest (bh-MB) and Lower Montane Wet Forest (Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014), while in Bolivia it is recorded growing in dry valleys, the Yungas forest, and humid puna grassland of the central Andes region (Bolivia Checklist, 2014).

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Productive/non-natural
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Natural
Natural forests Present, no further details Productive/non-natural
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Natural
Natural grasslands Present, no further details Productive/non-natural

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

There are numerous cultivars of S. tuberosum. Sporophytic count has been reported as 2n=24, 36, 48, 72, 96 (Wagner et al., 2014; IPCN Chromosome Reports, 2014).

Botanical Information

Tetraploid S. tuberosum can be classified into two cultivar groups, with the following characteristics:

- cultivar group Andigena (subsp. andigena), mainly occurring in South America from Venezuela to northern Argentina and is supposed to have originated by chromosome doubling in an unknown wild diploid species from the Andean region between Bolivia and Venezuela. Its members are tall, often straggling; leaves intensively dissected with numerous leaflets; adapted to short days; they usually produce rather irregularly shaped, deep-eyed and often pigmented tubers that are usually not acceptable to the more sophisticated markets of Europe and North America. They are also grown to a small extent in Mexico and Guatemala.

- cultivar group Tuberosum (subsp. tuberosum), mainly occurring in Europe and North America, supposed to have originated from selections made during the last 300 years from cv. group Andigena. Its members are smaller, less straggling, with less dissected leaves and are adapted to long days. This group has become a world crop and is now cosmopolitan in distribution. It was first introduced into Europe where selection began and from where cultivars spread to North America. With growing interest in the crop, supplementary introductions from South America were made to both these regions. Continuing selection has led to the establishment of numerous cultivars, a process still going on wherever the crop is grown. Cultivars vary in characteristics of their tubers, sprouts, foliage, flowers, growth cycle and disease resistance; much of the variability is also influenced by the environment. Propagation by true seed, however, produces variability due to genetic recombination.

Growth and Development

The general growth and development patterns of potato plants are characteristic within cultivars, but also vary with the environment and fertilizer treatments.

After harvest, tubers usually enter a period of dormancy, the duration of which depends on cultivar, maturity of the tuber, soil and climatic conditions during growth, and storage conditions. It often lasts for 2-6 months, but in some cases bud growth has already started before harvest. High temperatures during growth and storage tend to shorten dormancy and low temperatures prolong the dormancy period. Dormancy can be broken by treating tubers with chemicals such as chlorohydrin, thiourea or gibberellic acid. However, naturally sprouted tubers without the use of chemicals are preferred as they give more uniform germination and better growth. Once the period of natural dormancy has ended, the seed tuber passes through various subsequent physiological stages: apical dominance of sprouts, multiple sprouting and senility. An apical sprout is dominant over the other buds, so these remain dormant. Only when this apical or top sprout is removed (de-sprouting) will the other buds of the tuber develop sprouts during this phase. The degree of apical dominance depends on the cultivar. The optimum stage for planting is multiple sprouting, not only because of the number of sprouts, but also because of the vigour of individual sprouts. The number of sprouts (germinating eyes) per tuber depends on the extent of apical dominance, which is affected by variety, tuber age and physiological age as affected by chitting. It also depends on nutrition, tuber size and tuber health. After prolonged storage seed tubers may reach the stage of senility and have then become unfit for planting.

After planting, sprouts develop into stems. A main stem grows directly from the seed tuber. The lower lateral branches from the main stem are called secondary stems. Apart from secondary stems, a stem may develop branches at higher nodes several times during its growth. Main and secondary stems grow and behave like independent plants, and develop roots, stolons and tubers. Plant population is, therefore, best expressed as number of stems, rather than number of plants.

In plants growing from tubers, adventitious roots arise from the nodes of the underground stems. Plants grown from true seed develop a slender taproot with lateral branches.

The tuber is a modified stem which develops by the swelling of the tip of an underground stem (stolon).

The length of the growing period depends upon cultivar, amount of fertilizer (particularly N), pest attack (particularly the nematode burden on the roots), disease and weather conditions. In South-East Asia, cultivars generally mature in 3-5 months.

Reproductive Biology

The species produces viable seeds and is also capable of regenerating from its underground tubers.

Ecology

To achieve their yield potential potato crops require well-distributed rainfall of 500-750 mm in a growing period of 3-4.5 months. Cropping is possible in drier areas, as in Northern China, but yields are restricted. It can tolerate an annual temperature of 3.6 to 27.8°C, but is a cool weather crop, growing best at 15-20°C for most cultivars (Duke, 1983). Most commercial cultivars of potato tuberize best in cool climates with night temperatures below 20°C. Little or no tuberization occurs at night temperatures above 22°C. Optimum day temperatures for dry matter production are within the range 20-25°C. High light intensities favour dry matter production through their effect on photosynthesis. Short daylengths (12-13 hours) lead to earlier maturity. Potato is tolerant of moderate frost and cool soils (Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, 2014).

In the short daylength conditions of the tropics and subtropics, maximum yields can usually be obtained in cool highland areas and in cooler seasons. In Papua New Guinea, for example, optimum growth of potato takes place at altitudes between 1500 and 2200 m above sea-level, where day temperatures are about 25°C and night temperatures about 20°C.

Potato is tolerant of most soils, except heavy, waterlogged clays. Good drainage is of great importance. Impermeable layers in the soil limit rooting depth and the amount of available water, and so greatly reduce yields. Deep soils with good water retention and aeration give best growth and yields. The species can reportedly grow in a wide variety of soils including sandy loams, silt loams, loams and peats, with a soil pH range of 4.2 to 8.2 (Duke, 1983). Potatoes perform well across a wider range of soil pH than most crops. It is commonly thought that the optimum range is 4.8 to 7.0, but high yields of good quality potatoes are obtained on soils of above 8.0 pH, as on the Wisbech series in Lincolnshire, UK.

In the Americas, S. tuberosum can be grown from sea level up to 4500 m. In Nicaragua the species has been observed at 800-1000 m (Flora of Nicaragua, 2014), while in Panama it has been observed between 1000 and 2000 m (Panama Checklist, 2014). In Antioquia, Colombia, the species has been reported at elevations of 2000-2500 m in Lower Montane Rain Forest (bh-MB) and Lower Montane Wet Forest (Vascular Plants of Antioquia, 2014). In Pakistan the species apparently does well in hilly areas up to 3000 m (Flora of Pakistan, 2014). In Ecuador the species has been reported between 0 and 4500 m (Vascular Plants of Ecuador, 2014), and in Bolivia it has been observed between 2500 and 4000 m and is capable of tolerating dry soil (Bolivia Checklist, 2014).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
As - Tropical savanna climate with dry summer Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in summer) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Aw - Tropical wet and dry savanna climate Preferred < 60mm precipitation driest month (in winter) and < (100 - [total annual precipitation{mm}/25])
Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 3.6 27.8

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall904100mm; lower/upper limits

Soil Tolerances

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Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Diseases of S. tuberosum are numerous and widespread, affecting yield and quality where the plant is grown as a crop. The most prevalent diseases are:

- bacterial diseases, including bacterial wilt caused by Ralstonia solanacearum, bacterial soft rot caused mainly by Erwinia carotivora, and common scab caused by Streptomyces scabies

- fungal diseases including late blight caused by Phytophthora infestans, early blight or target spot caused by Alternaria solani, black scurf caused by Rhizoctonia solan[Thanetophorus cucumeris], and pink rot caused by Phytophthora erythroseptica

- several viral diseases including potato leafroll luteovirus (PLRV) and the mosaic viruses, notably potato X potexvirus (PVX) and potato Y potyvirus (PVY).

Duke (1983) states: In the USA, potatoes are injured by more than 100 species of insects, especially the Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata). It and the flea beetle (principally Epitrix spp.) reduce yields by feeding on the foliage. The potato aphid attacks the foliage and also spreads several viral diseases. Potato leaf hoppers cause a destructive disease-like condition known as hopperburn by sucking juices from the plants. The tubers are attacked by wireworms, often rendering the potatoes unsuitable for sale. 

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Breeding and propagationHas a long history of cultivation Yes Yes
Crop productionA staple crop in many countries Yes Yes
Escape from confinement or garden escape Yes Yes
FoodA staple crop worldwide, tubers capable of regenerating Yes Yes
Garden waste disposalSpecies has a long and wide history of cultivation; can reproduce by both seed and tubers Yes Yes
Industrial purposesCrop processed for many uses Yes Yes
People foragingSpecies has a long and wide history of cultivation both locally and commercially Yes Yes
Research Yes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
ConsumablesImportant food crop: edible tubers capable of regenerating Yes Yes
Soil, sand and gravelSoil that contains fragments of tuber can be transported. Tubers are capable of regenerating Yes Yes

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Positive
Environment (generally) Negative
Human health Positive and negative

Environmental Impact

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S. tuberosum has a negative environmental impact if given the chance to become weedy; however because of its importance as one of the top staple food crops of the world, the species continues to be widely commercially cultivated. 

Social Impact

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Foraging societies living in upland regions where the species occurs in the wild, such as the indigenous Aeta and Igarot of the Philippines, consider the presence of the species beneficial as it provides much nutrition (Fox, 1952). However, all parts of the plant except the tubers are poisonous, and the species poses a health threat to humans and mammals if the species becomes invasive. Tubers that have become green are poisonous, as the green colour indicates these tubers have produced alkaloids.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
  • Long lived
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
  • Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
  • Reproduces asexually
Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
Impact mechanisms
  • Hybridization
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately

Uses

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Worldwide, tubers of the potato crop are used for direct human consumption (48%), processing (11%, of which 2% is for the production of starch), vegetative propagation (13%), stock feed (20%) and the remaining 8% is waste. Worldwide, the use of potatoes for alcohol production is negligible, but can be important in some locations. The species is a rich source of protein, vitamin C and starch.

Potato tubers are consumed in many forms. Whole, they may be boiled, roasted or steamed in their skins; they may be peeled and then boiled or steamed and mashed with margarine or butter, with or without milk, or they may be baked or roasted. Large quantities are consumed fried as chips (French fries, pommes frites) or as thinly sliced crisps. In the USA, 32% of the potato harvest was processed into French fries during 1989-1990. Dutch processors produced 1.47 million t of frozen French fries in 1990 compared with 6000 t in 1960. In many Asian countries, potatoes are part of various curry dishes.

The fairly good storing ability of the raw tuber, in addition to processing into many forms of dehydrated, frozen and canned tubers, results in a supply reasonably independent of season. This and the simple cooking methods contribute to potato's importance as a major world crop.

Transgenic potatoes have been engineered to generate an immune response to Escherichia coli infection in humans and have potential as a new strategy for development of safe and inexpensive vaccines against diseases such as tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis B. The species has been the subject of genetic research to improve cultivars for agricultural purposes. As a member of the Solanum genus, S. tuberosum has also been studied for its production of potentially medicinal alkaloids.

Uses List

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Animal feed, fodder, forage

  • Fodder/animal feed

Genetic importance

  • Gene source

Human food and beverage

  • Beverage base
  • Flour/starch
  • Vegetable

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Source of medicine/pharmaceutical
  • Traditional/folklore

Prevention and Control

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Papers on control of S. tuberosum are generally studies on volunteer potatoes as a weed in succeeding crops. Rahman (1980) reviews the literature on S. tuberosum as a weed, including mechanical, cultural and chemical control methods. Lainsbury et al. (1998) report that clopyralid and ethofumesate reduce the vigour and population density of S. tuberosum in sugarbeet crops. Boydston and Seymour (2002) found that fluroxypyr plus bromoxynil reduced tuber weight of S. tuberosum acting as a weed in onion. Fluroxypyr was found by Riggle et al. (1999) to suppress volunteer S. tuberosum in wheat and barley crops, while Bond (1993) found treatments containing fluroxypyr more effective than ioxynil or clopyralid for control of S. tuberosum in vegetable crops. 

References

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Contributors

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24/8/2014 Updated by:

Marianne Jennifer Datiles, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

Pedro Acevedo-Rodríguez, Department of Botany-Smithsonian NMNH, Washington DC, USA

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