Probus club hears about the potato

President David Barclay welcomed 31 members to the Ellon Probus Club meeting on February 13.

He introduced guest speaker Dr Stuart Wale whose talk was on “Peru, a potato man’s paradise”.

Dr Wale is a potato agronomist and researcher at the SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), and is also an adviser on plant disease in the North-east.

Having done research work in plant pathology at Manchester University, he went on to specialise in the third most important agricultural crop in the world, the potato.

Peru is the home of the potato, known locally as Papa, or Batata, and four fifths of the world’s potato species are found in the high Andes Mountains.

Grown locally on terraces, the methods used have not changed much since the Mayan civilisation cultivated the crop hundreds

of years ago.

Dr Wale spent more than six years at the International Potato Centre in Lima doing research work on the crop.

The centre houses a gene bank where over 80% of the world’s native and wild potato genes are stored in controlled conditions. The gene pool is maintained for the benefit of the international community, with more than one hundred countries now growing the crop.

Sir Francis Drake is credited with having introduced the potato to Britain, but he only took them on board his ships in Chile to feed his crew.

It was the Spanish conquistadors who brought the potato to Europe.

Dr Wale’s talk fascinated members and, following questions, the vote of thanks was proposed by Bill Reed.