Fast Company

Post-Apocalyptic Potatoes: Exotic Spuds Now Safeguarded in Global Seed Vault

Svalbard Global Seed Vault

If nuclear radiation wipes out every crop in the ground, we will at least have lots of potato varieties to plant. Potato preservationists launched an effort this week to send over 1,500 varieties of Peruvian potatoes to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (aka the Doomsday Vault), an underground seed bank on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen.

Opened in 2008, the seed bank contains more than 400,000 seed samples, including lettuce, eggplant, potato, barley, corn, rice, wheat, and even chili peppers. But up until now, potatoes from Peru--the birthplace of the potato--have been left out. So activists and scientists from the Parque de la Papa plan to send some of the 4,000 varieties of native potatoes found in the Andes to the seed bank.

The potatoes, which will come from the Cusco Potato Park, will include unique varieties like the banana-shaped ttalaco (used in distillation) and the red moro boli (prized for its high antioxidant content)--and of course, more common red, yellow, and purple potatoes.

Over the next three years, conservation farmers will produce potato seeds that will be dried, cleaned, and wrapped in foil packaging before being sent off to the seed bank, where they may linger for thousands of years. Of course, judging by the popularity of genetically modified potatoes, it may not be long before native varieties are lugged out of the vault for planting.

Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Ariel Schwartz can be reached by email.

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