Highlights: January-April

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9-11 January

International expo in Kolkata

The world's No. 3 potato producer, India, helps launch the Year of the Potato with an International Potato Expo in Kolkata. Organized by the Indian Chamber of Commerce and the government of West Bengal state, the expo will showcase the potential of India as a hub for potato production and processing. It includes a two-day conference, field visits, and three days of exhibitions and cultural events. Host state West Bengal is India's second largest potato producer, with annual output of more than 7 million tonnes.


Challenge for Irish schoolkids

Primary school children across Ireland have received potato seed tubers as part of a "Meet the spuds!" Challenge - a potato-growing competition sponsored by the country's AgriAware Trust, the IYP national committee and the Department of Agriculture. As the plants grow, pupils will record progress with drawings, photos and written observations. In June, a photo of the harvested crop will be submitted for final assessment. Eight winning schools will receive a cash grant.


Potato technology on show

Warming up for the new potato planting season, two of Canada's premier potato-growing provinces host conferences and technology exhibitions in February. The New Brunswick Potato Conference and Trade Show (Grand Falls, 7-8 February) features two days of deliberations on topics ranging from demand prospects to late blight and climate change. On neighbouring Prince Edward Island, the biennial Technology Expo (Charlottetown, 15-16 February) provides a showcase for 100 leading suppliers.

1-22 February

Odyssey of the potato in Europe

The International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru has launched a travelling exhibit, "The Odyssey of the Potato", which will visit 10 European cities during 2008. The exhibit, which opened at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, on 1 February, illustrates the domestication of the potato in Peru, its introduction to Europe and dissemination worldwide, and its important role today in food security and economic development.

1 March

Gnocchi night in Seattle to raise funds

Sabrina Tatta, a lecturer in Italian Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle hosts a cooking evening where she will prepare gnocchi (Italian dumplings made from boiled and sieved potatoes mixed with flour). "The objective," she says, "is to celebrate Italian cooking and raise funds for undergraduate scholarships. We also hope to raise awareness about Italian culture, biodiversity and the potato as a tool for achieving Millennium Development Goals."

1-5 March

Prospects for potato in the Near East

Egypt is the biggest potato producer in Africa, with output in 2006 of some 2.5 million tonnes. So it is an appropriate venue for FAO's Near East Regional Conference, which will be attended by high-ranking agriculture officials from 32 countries stretching from Morocco to Afghanistan. Between discussions on transboundary animal diseases, pesticide management and climate change, delegates will view a presentation on IYP and the potato.

1-9 March

IYP celebrated in Italy's north

ERSA, the rural development agency of northern Italy's Friuli Venezia Giulia region, has organized a potato exhibition during the annual horticulture show in Pordenone. Visitors will be offered potato dishes from around the world prepared by a women's intercultural association. The agency is also sponsoring on 8 March an international potato conference, with participants from FAO, the European Union, Italy's Ministry of Agriculture and the Alpe Adria region.

6-29 March

Papa, madre on display in Cusco

French photographer Jean-Louis Gonterre holds at exhibition entitled Papa, madre at the Inca Musuem in Cusco for most of the month of March. On display is a collection of 50 striking photographs taken in Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru with the potato - or papa - as the central theme. In documenting the age-old cycle of potato planting and harvesting, Gonterre pays homage to the Andean farmers who have nurtured Solanum tuberosum and moulded it into countless varieties.

10-15 March

Course in papa production

The agricultural research station at Balcarce, near Buenos Aires, began breeding potato in 1940. Today, the station covers some 2 000 ha of land, with a staff of 250, and specializes in research on genetic enhancement, seed analysis, micropropagation and nematology. The station will share its knowledge with agricultural science graduates from Argentina and other Latin American countries through a six-day course on potato production beginning on 10 March.

12-14 March

US Potato Board 's annual  meeting

Representing 4 000 potato growers, the United States Potato Board says further growth in the industry will come from innovation. To celebrate IYP 2008, the Board recently bought prime cyberspace - on the Food Network website - to supply busy mothers between the ages of 25 and 50 (among the most active users of the internet) with meal ideas and nutrition information. The Board holds its annual meeting in Denver, Colorado, on 12-14 March.

13 March

Spud Day, and a recipe book

The Wimmera Home Educators' Group - parents who educate their children at home - has celebrated International Years for Mountains (2002) and for Deserts and Desertification (2006). For IYP, the group plans to hold a potato day in the town of Dimboola on 13 March and produce a potato recipe book. Farmers grow cereals on Wimmera's drylands, but are now turning to higher value crops such olives and potatoes.

15 March

Homage to St. Patrick and "the spud"

Each year on St Patrick's Day - the day of Ireland's patron saint - a group of citizens in Vancouver, Canada, organize a "Homage to the Spud" celebration in recognition of the potato's contribution to Irish life and culture. Participants bring dishes in which the main ingredient is potatoes, and prizes are awarded for the most creative. The event also serves to raise funds for local charities that support youth outreach services.

25-28 March

Potato science for the poor

A major event of the International Year is the global conference, "Potato science for the poor", organized by CIP and FAO in Cusco, where potato and research-for-development specialists will discuss ways of enhancing the impact of potato science in the developing world. Sessions cover potato productivity in agriculturally-based countries, potato profitability in economies in transition, and the social and environmental sustainability of potato-based systems in the urbanized world. On the agenda: dialogue with farmers at Cusco's "potato park".


IYP committees  take shape

The Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Rwanda and Uganda are among African countries organizing national IYP committees to celebrate the International Year. The committees will raise public awareness of IYP issues through media campaigns, local and national contests for farmers, and curricula for schoolchildren. Committee participants include representatives of government and international agencies, NGOs, civil society and the private sector.

Sri Lanka
3-4 April

Potato symposium in Sri Lanka

To celebrate IYP, Sri Lanka's Department of Agriculture is hosting a symposium on "Potato: Opportunities and challenges in the new millennium" at its Sita Eliya Agricultural Research Station. Established in 1960, and proposed as a national potato research centre, the station currently produces disease-free planting material and develops early maturing, high yielding varieties adapted to the country's cropping systems.

3-6 April

Progress report on late blight

Late blight - the mould disease that caused Ireland's disastrous "potato famine" - remains one of the most destructive diseases of S. tuberosum. But the last five years have seen major advances in many areas of research on late blight and its causal agent, Phytophthora infestans. Leading scientists will meet in Beijing for the Third International Late Blight Conference to consolidate new knowledge and foster greater international collaboration.

11 April

Patents, potatoes and sharing technology

An international conference will be held at Wageningen University and Research Centre on 11 April to discuss "possible tensions" between the practice of public organizations to patent their innovations in the life sciences, and the need to ensure developing countries' access to new technologies. International experts will present their views on this complex issue, with particular reference to the case of potato research at Wageningen, and present potential solutions to the dilemmas at hand.