Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Farming News .

Top-down and bottom-up approach needed to conserve potato agrobiodiversity
by Staff Writers
Philadelphia PA (SPX) Feb 18, 2014

These are diverse Andean potatoes, each individually recognized and named among farmers. Image courtesy Karl Zimmerer.

Mashed, smashed and fried, Americans love potatoes, but only a few varieties are grown in much of North American agriculture. In South America, where potatoes originated, more than 5,000 varieties continue to exist. A Penn State geographer is gathering all the information he can about the agrobiodiversity of these uniquely adapted tubers with an eye toward sustainability of this fourth largest food crop worldwide.

"In the U.S. we rely primarily on 10 to 12 types of potatoes total," said Karl Zimmerer, department head and professor of geography. "In fact, mostly we use only 5 to 8 varieties. In South America, by contrast, there are 74 different types of potatoes in a single field. The fields, tubers and landscapes are visually stunning."

Zimmerer has studied high-agrobiodiversity land use for over 20 years, but until recently, those studies have been on the ground. He first looked at diversity within individual potato fields and then scaled up to individual communities and landscapes. People in a community have expert knowledge of 150 to 180 varieties of potato, he said.

"People in Peru, for example, love to eat potatoes and think that theirs are vastly superior to what we have in flavor, texture, starchiness and color," said Zimmerer. "They want to hang on to their high-agrobiodiversity potatoes and we want them to hang due to nutritional, ecological and other conservation advantages."

Scaling up even more, Zimmerer looked at potato fields on the landscape level -- typically groups of 5 to 15 communities -- and regions that contain upward of 30 or 40 communities. Remote sensing approaches made this easier, but still only supplied part of the answers to identifying agrobiodiversity hotspots -- biologically rich but environmentally and socioeconomically threatened areas -- and creating ways to protect these areas and conserve these crops.

Because the major potato growing area encompasses large parts of northern South America, Zimmerer needed a novel approach, which he presented Feb. 15 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Chicago, where he organized a symposium on new agrobiodiversity discoveries needed for sustainability.

"There are 4,000 to 5,000 different varieties of potato in Chile, Colombia, Northern Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela," said Zimmerer. "Up until now, the areas where varieties grow were just designated as large, undifferentiated shapes on the map. In order to support agrobiodiversity, we have to have an idea of large-area agrobiodiversity concentrations, so we have to look from the top down."

With this approach, identifying and analyzing region-scale areas of concentrated agrobiodiversity are important, as are the global institutions such as the International Potato Center in Peru. But perhaps the most important part of the top down study is the knowledge held by expert potato taxonomists who have long histories of geographically extensive work.

"One example is Alberto Salas who has 60 years of experience and has vast geographic and agrobiodiversity knowledge," said Zimmerer. "He is a Peruvian who has worked from Chile to Venezuela and has an extraordinary knowledge of major areas where diverse potato types are located."

While many experts are local to potato growing areas, other experts come from Europe and North America. To assemble an expert database of information about locations of potato hotspots, Zimmerer uses a two-pronged approach. For those comfortable with computers, he asks them to delineate on Google Earth maps the regions of concentrated agrobiodiversity. For those uncomfortable with computers, the same tasks can be performed using paper maps.

Once the regional hotspot locations are on the electronic map, other information such as elevation, socioeconomic characteristics and slope becomes available. Information from the various experts can also be compared.

With so many varieties, it is difficult for even the local farmers to identify and keep track of the potatoes growing in their and their neighbor's fields. Zimmerer's approach may eventually be used for visualizations that help enable the local crowdsourcing of this agrobiodiversity.

"The local farmers generally identify their potatoes on their culinary properties and uses -- floury, soup making or freeze drying," said Zimmerer. "Interestingly, the culinary uses correspond to the elevations where the potatoes grow -- soup potatoes have the lowest elevation, floury potatoes in mid elevation and freezing potatoes are the highest."

This type of information from the knowledge systems of farmers -- often women -- coupled with top down image analysis, visualization and geographic information systems can supply important information for sustainability and conservation. Combining the top-down and bottom-up information provides novel knowledge and new strategies for sustainable use of the extraordinarily high levels of biodiversity within the Andean potatoes.

Zimmerer is already applying this approach to other crops such as corn, which also includes many unique types with geographic dynamics being a key to adaptation and sustainability.


Related Links
Penn State
Farming Today - Suppliers and Technology

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Hidden crop pest threat to poorer nations revealed
Exeter UK (SPX) Feb 18, 2014
The abundance of crop pests in developing countries may be greatly underestimated, posing a significant threat to some of the world's most important food producing nations, according to research led by the University of Exeter. Data on the known distributions of almost 2,000 crop-destroying organisms in 195 countries were analysed in the first global assessment of the factors determining t ... read more

NASA-USGS Landsat 8 Satellite Celebrates First Year of Success

Largest Flock of Earth-Imaging Satellites Launch into Orbit From ISS

Olympics: Eye in the sky give viewers dramatic new angle

Swarm heads for new heights

GAGAN System reaches certification milestone in India

Lockheed Martin Powers On Second GPS 3 Satellite In Production

India to launch three navigation satellites this year

NGC Wins Contract For GPS-Challenged Navigation and Geo-Registration Solution

Controversial Malaysian state boss to resign

Tree roots in the mountains 'acted like a thermostat' for millions of years

NASA Study Points to Infrared-Herring in Apparent Amazon Green-Up

Puzzling 'greening' of Amazon rainforest in dry season an illusion

Waste from age-old paper industry becomes new source of solid fuel

Plastic shopping bags make a fine diesel fuel

Ceresana expects the market for bioplastics to grow

Approach helps identify new biofuel sources that don't require farmland

Light-induced degradation in amorphous silicon thin film solar cells

Harvesting light, the single-molecule way

JinkoSolar Supplies Modules to CSEM-uae for Solar Outdoor Laboratory

Next Generation of Solar Energy Storage Advances as Nevada Project Begins Commissioning

Britain wind farm proposal scaled back in face of opposition

Climate risk from wind farms is minimal: study

Moventas CMaS gaining a strong foothold in Australia

Residents oppose new grid link needed for German energy transition

Societal Benefits of Fossil Energy to be at Least 50 Times Greater than Perceived Costs of Carbon

Goldman Sachs pulls out from Pacific coal export project

Colombia stops Drummond coal shipments over environmental row

China coal mine accidents kill 1,049 in 2013: govt

China to provide more baby safe havens

Chinese bloggers press Kerry on Internet freedom

Daredevils scale world's second tallest building in China

China policeman sentenced to die for killing pregnant woman

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.