Science

Irish potato famine – Could it happen again?

History lessons and the science of farming systems

From the Soil Science Society of America

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, thoughts turn to the Irish experience of image.phpthe 1800s. This includes the devastating conditions in Ireland that led many to the U.S. The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) March 1 Soils Matter blog post explains the agricultural lessons behind the Irish Potato Famine.

Starting in September 1845, a potato disease ravaged fields and left behind shriveled, inedible tubers. Scientists have since attributed the potato blight to a quick-spreading strain of a soil fungus.

“A single infected potato plant could infect thousands more in just a few days,” said Jean E. McLain, University of Arizona.

In Ireland, fields generally contained one crop, year-after-year: the Lumper potato. This made the plants in Irish fields more susceptible to disease. “Conditions were ripe for the fungus to thrive at the expense of farmers and their families,” McLain explains.

But this tragedy needn’t be repeated. “Armed with this knowledge, researchers and farmers alike are improving and adopting practices like crop rotation, intercropping, andxSSSA-Logo.png.pagespeed.ic.RfTc74XJ4x increasing crop diversity.”

To read the entire blog post, visit https://wp.me/p3Rg6r-p1.

Follow SSSA on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSA.soils, Twitter at SSSA_Soils. SSSA has soils information on www.soils.org/discover-soils, for teachers at www.soils4teachers.org, and for students through 12th grade, www.soils4kids.org.

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