Wild Relatives of Potato
Potato is an essential crop for food, culture and the economies of Andean countries and the world. Although there is little documentation of the exact route of introduction of potatoes to Europe, it is believed that potatoes were first introduced in the region of Seville, Spain, as there are hospital records showing acquisition of potatoes in 1573 (Hawkes 1990). It is assumed that from the introduction in Spain, potatoes were transported by different routes and subsequently adapted to other continents (Africa, Asia, and Australia) as a staple crop.
The cultivated potato is native to South America, and its centers of origin and diversity are located in the Andes mountain. The Collao plateau, the watershed basin of Titicaca Lake, with the corresponding territories of Peru and Bolivia are believed to be potato’s primary center of origin and diversity. Other secondary centers of diversity are southern Bolivia, northern Argentina, Pasco’s Knot Peru, Loja’s knot, Ecuador and Peru; volcanic complex of Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Cotopaxi in Ecuador and the nude asture in Colombia. These geographic areas were involved in the interaction of potato cultivation with early human cultures, a reliance that extends to the present day in many Andean indigenous communities . The geographical range of wild potato species is highly varied. North America: Mexico (MEX), United States (USA); Central America: Costa Rica (CTR), Guatemala(GUA), Honduras (HON), Panama (PAN); and South America: Argentina (ARG), Bolivia (BOL), Brazil (BRA), Chile (CHL), Colombia(COL), Ecuador(ECU), Paraguay(PAR), Peru (PER), Uruguay (URY) and Venezuela (VEN). These 16 countries all have native wild potato species. Many investigators (Bukasov, Hawkes, Vargas, Ochoa, Spooner, Salas) have used a variety of methods which indicated that the ancestor of the cultivated potato are the Andean wild species which are widely distributed throughout the Andes. The long-term conservation of these species is done with botanical seed which involves the collection, processing, regeneration, conservation and distribution of seed.