Friday 22nd June 2012, 11:51 London
Potato congress focuses on climate change
Adaptation to the effects of climate change was at the centre of discussions at the latest World Potato Congress
The UK's biggest potato conference, World Potato Congress, took place in Edinburgh in May, attracting more than 800 delegates from over 50 countries.
Speakers included the UK’s chief scientific adviser and author of the Foresight report, Sir John Beddington, who expressed his surprise at the continuing scepticism about climate change.
“What will happen in the next 20 years is already determined by what is happening now,” he said. “The outlook is partly gloomy, partly frightening and partly optimistic.”
He also stresed the key role the potato will play in feeding a growing population that is expected to reach 8bn people by 2025.
A steady rise in potato yields has allowed production to remain steady since 1960, despite a drop in the amount of land under cultivation, delegates heard.
The belief is that scientific advances such as disease resistance can assist the sector, allowing it to adapt to the effects of climate change, ease the pressure on water supplies and help lessen losses incurred by producers – currently standing at 40 per cent of potential yields.
Such developments will facilitate the necessary boost in global production of potatoes above the current 300m tonnes.