Potato is an annual plant that produces edible tubers. It is the most important tuber crop worldwide. Potato is grown across temperate and some tropical areas in the world, and it is the fourth most important crop worldwide (after maize, wheat and rice).
The crop originated in the Andes Mountains of South America. It is estimated that its domestication took place about 7000 BP. Andean cultivated potatoes are highly diverse, with high levels of polymorphism and polyploidy, and different taxonomic treatments. Potato was introduced to Europe by the returning Spanish Conquistadores during the 16th century. Later, between the late 16th and early 17th century, European traders expanded the crop to Asia and Africa.
Potato is conserved as botanical seeds, live plants in the field and in vitro plantlets. Eleven collections together conserve 86% of the total number of accessions, as reported in the global strategy for the ex situ conservation of potato.
Genesys lists about 25,000 accessions, 19% of which are landraces and 24% wild relatives. The largest potato collections are in the Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kultupflanzenforschung (IPK), the USDA-ARS genebanks and the International Potato Center (CIP).
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. CIP collaborates with the Potato Park by repatriating disease-free cultivars and supporting traditional practices for food security and local development.