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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: What Is the Origin of the European Potato? Evidence from Canary Island Landraces

Authors
item Rios, Domingo - CENTRO DE CONSERV, SPAIN
item Ghislain, Marc - INT'L POTATO CENTER, PERU
item Rodriguez, Flor - UNIV OF WISC -MADISON
item Spooner, David

Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 15, 2006
Publication Date: May 2, 2007
Citation: Rios, D., Ghislain, M., Rodriguez, F., Spooner, D.M. 2007. What is the origin of the European potato? Evidence from Canary Island landraces. Crop Science. 47:1271-1280.

Interpretive Summary: The modern cultivated potato was first recorded in Europe in the Canary Islands 1567, but its origin has long been in dispute. Two competing hypotheses have proposed an "Andean" area (somewhere from upland Venezuela to northern Argentina) or a lowland south central "Chilean" area. Longtime cultivated "primitive" (landrace) potatoes from these two areas can be told apart from each other by their outward appearance and by molecular traits (features of their DNA, or genetic code). This study characterizes their molecular traits, and shows that the Canary Island landraces are a mixture of potatoes from the Andes and from Chile. This result is important because the presumed identity of the Canary Island potatoes as from the Andes has long been used to support an Andean origin of the potatoes in Europe. These results, in concert with newly presented historical and other data, support a hypothesis that there were multiple introductions of Andean and Chilean germplasm to the Canary Islands and that the early European potato was selected from landraces from Chile soon after potatoes appeared in Europe. These results are changing long-held ideas of potato origins and will help breeders understand the relative value of Andean vs. Chilean potato germplasm for breeding programs.

Technical Abstract: The modern cultivated potato was first recorded in Europe in the Canary Islands 1567, but its origin has long been in dispute. Two competing hypotheses have proposed an “Andean” area (somewhere from upland Venezuela to northern Argentina) or a lowland south central “Chilean” area. Potato landraces from these two areas can be distinguished, although sometimes with difficulty, by 1) cytoplasmic sterility factors, 2) morphological traits, 3) day length adaptation, 4) microsatellite markers, and 5) co-evolved chloroplast and mitochondria DNA. The Chilean introduction hypothesis originally was proposed because of similarities of Chilean landraces to modern “European” cultivars regarding traits 2 and 3. Alternatively, the Andean introduction hypothesis suggested that 1) traits 2 and 3 of European potato evolved rapidly, in parallel, from Andean landraces through selection after import to Europe to a Chilean type, and 2) the worldwide late blight epidemics beginning in 1845 in the United Kingdom displaced most existing European cultivars and the potato was subsequently improved by importations of Chilean landraces. An additional argument supporting the Andean introduction hypothesis was the identification of landraces from the Canary Islands, the first recorded site of introduction outside of South America, as Andean in origin. We reassess these two competing hypotheses with nuclear microsatellite and chloroplast DNA analyses of 19 Canary Island cultivars, 14 Andean landraces, 11 Chilean landraces, and two wild potato species as outgroups. Our molecular results document a wide variation of "Andean" and "Chilean"-type cultivars, and possible hybrids of the two. These data, in concert with newly presented historical and other data, support a hypothesis that there were multiple introductions of Andean and Chilean germplasm to the Canary Islands and that the early European potato was selected from Chilean introductions long before the late blight epiphytotics of the 1840s. These results are changing long-held ideas of potato origins and will help breeders understand the relative value of Andean vs. Chilean potato germplasm for breeding programs.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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