The Potato (Solanum Tuberosum) is a tuberous, starchy crop. The Solanum group of perennial plants. Today, the genus contains over 1500-2000 species, including tomatotes and eggplant. The potato is a member of the Solanaceae family. This family includes flowering plants, mostly agricultural crops. It is an angiosperm which makes it also a eudicot. ( The plant is about 20-40 inches high with a spiral leaf arrangement. Leaves are about 20-30 cm long including a terminal leaflet and two to four leaflets. The potato is considered one of the main food crops in the world. It differs from others because of the "tuber". The tuber, which is the swollen end of an underground stem, is the edible part of the plant. Potatoes appearance can range in color, shape, and size. Size is affected by the stoloons, which are extended on the ends of the underground stems. Here is where the size and shape of the potato are formed. Different tubers evolve on the stoloons. The skin of the potato can also range from a light brown to a dark purple and the inside of the potato can be either a yellow or white- but also a purple.
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History: Potatoes have been traced all the way back to 500 BC in Peru and Chile. The Incas ate and grew them, while also worshiping them. Individuals were impressed by the ruggedness, storage quality, and nutrional value. These people would even bury potatoes with their ancestors for protection. It wasn't untill 1537 until the West had become aware of the potato- when the Conquistadors invaded Peru. During this time, the potato lost its praise that the Incas had for them. In Spain, they were used as food for the lower class as well as hospital food. It took many years for potatoes to spread around the rest of Europe- about the 1780's. This was when Ireland adoptedthe crop. The reason was because of its ability to produce an abundant nutritonal crop. Potatoes do in facthave the most vitamins compared to any other large crop. Soon the crop began to spread everywhere until the potato blight of 1840. The disease was caused by a fungus called Phytophthora infestans.This terrible occurrenceruined potato crops all through Europe. It caused the "Potato Famine" in Ireland, which cut the population in half due to starvation and people leaving the country. Because of this blight, their became caution around depending too heavily on it. The potato has certain qualities that allow it to grow in any environment. These qualities include and are not limited to: surviving frost, resistent to diurinal conditions, and having over 5000 different varities of with different adaptive characteristics.
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Types of Potatoes:

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These include yellow (yukon gold), red (Norland), white (White Rose), russet, fingerling, and blue potatoes. Each type has a different use. For example russet potatoes are higher in starch so they are good for baking and for mashed potatoes. Along with many different types of potatoes, there are many ways to consume them. These ways are not limited to the following: mashed baked, as chips, fried, boiled, roasted, and steamed. Potatoes are one of the most popular side dishes that are consumed in the US. Potatoes

Geographical Information: 1/3 of the potatoes grown in the US are from Idaho. Other top potato growing states include Maine, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. The following map shows where there is potato farming in the US as well as Canada.


Economic Outlook: As of today, potatoes are the leading vegatable crop in the US (excluding sweet potatoes) due to contributing to around 15% of farm sales. With our country's demand for organic goods growing, the potato market has had many benefits. Since there has been a serious trend in consumers' purchasing more organic goods, the potato market has been able to meet this demand. Potatoes are among the top agricultural crops that are demanded in an organic state. Organic potatoes do cost about 75% more than conventional varieties. This shows that if consumers are willing to incur the extra cost, they are in high demand. A big part of the potato demand includes frozen potatoes. They are responsible for over 50% of US potato exports. Potato famers experience a optimism in 2011 due to the strong potato market. 

Demand: Americans consume about 130 pounds of processed and fresh potatoes each year during the 2000's. This number is much higher than the number two most consumed vegetable, tomatoes. Our highest demand for potatoes is mainly for french fry use. Fast food chains demand incredible amounts of potatoes to keep up with the demand of Americans in the fast food industry.

Supply: Summer 2011 potato supply will not be a high as normal, but still enough to meet the demand until the fall harvests begin. About 50% of the total potato harvest

processors that make french fries, chips, dehydrated potatoes, and other products. The other 50% goes to markets and are sold as is. This statistic is incredible because it

shows how wide the use of potatoes is.
World Potato Distribution: From a world standpoint, developing countries are the largest suppliers of potatoes. This is not always the best thing, because if the crop fails, then this could be devastating to a nation's economy. The following graph shows potato production in 2008. The US is the 4th top producer of potatoes, which goes to show there is heavy reliance on other countries for our potato demand.
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The Sweet potato: An up and coming product in the potato market is the sweet potato. These potatoes are less starchy, healthier subsitute for regualr potatoes. US Sweet potato farmers are focusing now on Europe. Europeans, who are much more health conscious, see the sweet potato as a vitamin packed lower cholesterol option. US sweet potato exports from 2005-2009 doubled to over 51.4 million. This is a great stride for the potato market, because 10 years ago Europe wasn't even aware of the sweet potato.

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Wild Card: US Government Declares War on Potatoes in Schools
Government officials are paying close attention to the amount of potatoes that are being served in federal government nutrition programs. These programs include school lunches and the Woman, Infants, and Children program (WIC). They are severely trying to limit the amount of potatoes that are served. The WIC program makes better foods available for low-income and nutritionally deficient pregnant women, infants, and children. Potatoes were excluded from this program in 2007 because the USDA believed we already eat enough of that product. Now, the white potato is making its way back into the menus. There is much controversy surrounding on whether or not the potato should be reintroduced to the programs. Some senators are for it- seeing the nutritonal value the potato encompasses, but others see it as not good for our health because these programs use the potato for french fry supply.