Once “humble”, now a “hero”; the theme of the recent World Potato Congress was resolute (WPC Inc 2009). As the world’s population advances to 9 billion by 2050 (UN Secretariat 2007), the potato is expected to play a
Plant Biotechnology Unit, Teagasc Crops Research Centre, Oak Park, Carlow, Ireland. *Corresponding author: [email protected]
pivotal role in underpinning global food reserves, with particular relevance to less developed regions whose population is projected to rise by 32% (5.4 billion to 7.9 billion) over the next 40 years (WPC Inc 2009). Promoted by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization as the “food of the future” through 2008 (The International Year of the Potato), the potato is already an integral component of the global food supply with production reaching a record 325 million tons in 2007 (FAO 2008). In contrast to the volatility of global cereal prices, the potato is not a globally traded commodity, meaning potato prices are typically determined at a local/regional level, making the potato a recommended food security crop that can help low-income farmers and vulnerable consumers ride out extreme events in world food supply and demand (FAO 2008). But while the adaptability of the potato is its greatest asset (from China to India to Europe to the Americas) the crop faces signifi cant challenges into the near future if it is to realize the aspirations of so many.