GOOD

The Potato Problem: Can Scientists Climate-Proof Spud Crops?

As global temperatures rise, farmers that now grow potatoes will struggle to produce them, unless scientists start "climate-proofing" crops now.


Potatoes are starting to show up in my local farmers markets here in New York City. There are purple potatoes and fingerling potatoes and Yukon Golds and plain old Russets. Most of them come from somewhere in upstate New York, where every year more than 25,000 acres are planted with potatoes, the state’s most economically valuable crop. Two decades from now, though, those acres will be dramatically less suitable for growing potatoes, according to the Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security research program. Potatoes don’t grow well in heat, but a freak frost can kill off an entire crop. As global temperatures rise, the farmers that deliver potatoes to my neighborhood will struggle to produce them.

This problem isn’t confined to New York. All around the world, yields of crops like potatoes and beans will drop as their growing conditions change. And preparations to head off hunger and food shortages need to start now, says CCAFS, a Denmark-based collaboration of agriculture scientists, in a new report.


Potatoes do sometimes get a bad rap. Recent research shows that eating them can lead to weight gain: they’re that chock-full of calories. The Department of Agriculture could limit the number of times that school cafeterias serve potatoes, along with starchy vegetables like corn and peas, in a week.

But while the potato’s caloric efficiency is problematic in a country with an obesity problem, it’s a vital support to the world’s population generally. In 2008, the United Nations’ International Year of the Potato, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization found that China produced more potatoes than any other country, while India, Bangladesh, and Russia were among the top overall consumers. Poorer Eastern European countries like Belarus, Ukraine, and Poland dominated per-capita consumption. But Rwanda also made that list, and the U.N. found that per capita demand for potatoes in the developing world was growing.

One potential solution to the continuing need for potatoes in a changing climate involves developing heat-tolerant varieties. CCAFS reports that heat-tolerant potatoes could head off climate-related damage in about two-thirds of the potato crop worldwide. Crop scientists have relatively little experience breeding for those traits, though. Sweet potatoes also do better in hot weather than white potatoes.

Potatoes aren’t the only crop that need to be “climate-proofed,” though. The CCAFS is focusing on the crops that provide the base for most peoples’ diets—bananas and cassava, as well as potatoes and beans. For all those other wonderful vegetables showing up in the market—the last Jersey tomatoes, first winter squashes, apples, and kale, among many others—the race is on to figure out how to save them, as well.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user graibeard

Articles
via Real Time with Bill Maher / YouTube and The Late Late Show with James Corden / YouTube

A controversial editorial on America's obesity epidemic and healthcare by comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show "Real Time" inspired a thoughtful, and funny, response by James Cordon. It also made for a great debate about healthcare that Americans are avoiding.

At the end of the September 6th episode of "Real Time, " Maher turned to the camera for his usual editorial and discussed how obesity is a huge part of the healthcare debate that no one is having.

"At Next Thursday's debate, one of the candidates has to say, 'The problem with our healthcare system is Americans eat shit and too much of it.' All the candidates will mention their health plans but no one will bring up the key factor: the citizens don't lift a finger to help," Maher said sternly.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics

There is no shortage of proposals from the, um, what's the word for it… huge, group of Democratic presidential candidates this year. But one may stand out from the pack as being not just bold but also necessary; during a CNN town hall about climate change Andrew Yang proposed a "green amendment" to the constitution.

Keep Reading Show less
test
Me Too Kit

The creator of the Me Too kit — an at home rape kit that has yet to hit the market — has come under fire as sexual assault advocates argue the kit is dangerous and misleading for women.

The kit is marketed as "the first ever at home kit for commercial use," according to the company's website. "Your experience. Your kit. Your story. Your life. Your choice. Every survivor has a story, every survivor has a voice." Customers will soon be able order one of the DIY kits in order to collect evidence "within the confines of the survivor's chosen place of safety" after an assault.

"With MeToo Kit, we are able to collect DNA samples and other tissues, which upon testing can provide the necessary time-sensitive evidence required in a court of law to identify a sexual predator's involvement with sexual assault," according to the website.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Villagers rejoice as they receive the first vaccines ever delivered via drone in the Congo

The area's topography makes transporting medicines a treacherous task.

Photo by Henry Sempangi Senyule

When we discuss barriers to healthcare in the developed world, affordability is commonly the biggest concern. But for some in the developing world, physical distance and topography can be the difference between life and death.

Widjifake, a hard-to-reach village in northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a population of 6,500, struggles with having consistent access to healthcare supplies due to the Congo River and its winding tributaries.

It can take up to three hours for vehicles carrying supplies to reach the village.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via Keith Boykin / Twitter

Fox News and President Trump seem like they may be headed for a breakup. "Fox is a lot different than it used to be," Trump told reporters in August after one of the network's polls found him trailing for Democrats in the 2020 election.

"There's something going on at Fox, I'll tell you right now. And I'm not happy with it," he continued.

Some Fox anchors have hit back at the president over his criticisms. "Well, first of all, Mr. President, we don't work for you," Neil Cavuto said on the air. "I don't work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you."

Keep Reading Show less
Politics