The potato is a root vegetable native to the Americas, a starchy tuber of the plant Solanum tuberosum, and the plant itself is a perennial in the nightshade family, Solanaceae.
Wild potato species, originating in modern-day Peru, can be found throughout the Americas, from Canada to southern Chile. The potato was originally believed to have been domesticated by indigenous peoples of the Americas independently in multiple locations, but later genetic testing of the wide variety of cultivars and wild species traced a single origin for potatoes.
In the area of present-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia, from a species in the Solanum brevicaule complex, potatoes were domesticated approximately 7,000–10,000 years ago. In the Andes region of South America, where the species is indigenous, some close relatives of the potato are cultivated.
There are about 5,000 potato varieties worldwide. Three thousand of them are found in the Andes alone, mainly in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Colombia.
They belong to eight or nine species, depending on the taxonomic school. Apart from the 5,000 cultivated varieties, there are about 200 wild species and subspecies, many of which can be cross-bred with cultivated varieties. Cross-breeding has been done repeatedly to transfer resistances to certain pests and diseases from the gene pool of wild species to the gene pool of cultivated potato species. Genetically modified varieties have met public resistance in the United States and in the European Union.
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