Biotech Updates

Biofortification of Peruvian Potato with More Iron

January 7, 2011

Iron deficiency is a most widespread nutritional problem in the world as reported by the World Health Organization. Children with iron deficiency experience impaired physical and cognitive development and increased risk of morbidity, while adults exhibit reduced work productivity. Potato has higher iron bioavailability compared to cereals and legumes because of its high ascorbic acid content which promotes iron absorption, and low levels of phytic acid, an inhibitor of iron absorption. However, the potential of potato in reducing malnutrition is not well known.

"In the Andean altiplano, where there is little access to meat, it is an important source of dietary iron," says Gabriela Burgos, who leads the Quality and Nutrition Laboratory at International Potato Center (CIP). "For example, in Huancavelica in the Peruvian highlands, women and children consume an average of 800 g and 200 g of potato per day, respectively. So improving iron concentrations and bioavailability in potato will have real impact in these areas."

HarvestPlus, in cooperation with the scientists of CIP, will screen the genebank's potato germplasm for micronutrients (Fe, Zn, vitamin C, and phenol). The next step in the program is to combine Andean landrace cultivars that contains high levels of iron and zinc with CIP's advanced breeding lines to develop biofortified potatoes with disease and pest resistance, high yield, and with high acceptance to farmers.