Potatoes originated in the Andean Mountains of South America. It is estimated that its domestication took place about 7000 BP.

Potato cultivars do not breed true from seed. As a result, genetic resources are mainly conserved in clonal collections as tubers, in vitro tissue cultures and cryopreservation.

It’s estimated that potatoes were domesticated about 7,000 years ago. They originated in the Andes, where around 180 wild potato species can still be found. At the Parque de la Papa (Potato Park), near Cusco, farmers grow, consume and conserve hundreds of varieties. Photo: Luis Salazar, Crop Trust.

Wild potato genetic resources, on the other hand, are conserved primarily as botanical seed collections. Wild potato species have a wide geographical distribution, from the south-west of the United States to the central part of Argentina and Chile, from sea level up to 4500 masl in a wide range of environments. Wild potato species include diploids, triploids, tetraploids and hexaploids. Each species shows different characteristics of reproduction; most are outcrossing to varying extents although a small group could be 100% self-pollinating.

Complementary efforts to conserve potato diversity in its center of origin include the Parque de la Papa, where six local Quechua communities use, manage and protect more than 600 potato landraces. The International Potato Center collaborates with the Parque de la Papa by repatriating disease-free cultivars and supporting traditional practices for food security and local development.

Major potato collections

The largest genebank collections of potato are held by the IPK Gatersleben genebank in Germany, the USDA Potato Germplasm Introduction Station in MI, USA and by the International Potato Center in Peru.