There are more than 4000 varieties of potato in Peru

In a historic moment for Peruvian biodiversity last week, Quechua farmers sent 1,500 potato seed varieties to a ‘seed vault’ to protect these staple South American foods.

The “potato park” as it’s being referred to was established to cultivate all potato varieties, from purple and red moro boli to ttalaca—a long banana-shaped variety. In partnership with Asociación Andes, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the International Potato Center (CIP), the project is working with six indigenous communities from Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas to collate seeds from thousands of strains and as much information as possible on each one’s usage and history.

Long before McDonald’s French fries and Lays potato chips—some 8,000 years ago—the potato has its origins in Peru, with more than 4,000 recognized varieties. Like corn, wheat and other heavily farmed crops that have adapted over time, potato varieties are dwindling and falling out of circulation in Peru. Some are even in jeopardy of becoming extinct.

In addition to seeds going to the Peruvian Potato Park, another set will go to the CIP in Lima and a final set will travel all the way to the North Pole to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV) on Spitsbergen, a Norwegian island in the Arctic Circle, where an unmanned cold storage facility preserves thousands of seed varieties from around the world in the case of a crisis. Norway’s government funds SGSV and storage in the vault is free of charge for any country who wishes to store seed samples there.

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Photo: rrunaway