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Monday, March 4, 2024

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Potato is a very important and popular crop of the state and belongs to vegetable family. It can be boiled or fried and popular forms of potatoes like fried potatoes, whipped potatoes, baked potatoes, etc., are great favourites. Of all varieties of potatoes, the white or Irish potato is the most important and is basic food for millions of people globally. White potato was introduced into Europe by the Spanish conquistadores who brought from South America during the middle of 15th century which soon became very popular in many European nations. It was brought into Khasi hills by Captain David Scott of the British colonial power who first planted it at Nongkhlaw, Eastern West Khasi Hills, during early 1800s and soon potato cultivation made clean sweep of neighbouring areas because of suitable climate and geographical conditions. Within a century the crop thrived so well and people of the state, especially those in upper lands of Khasi hills, became economically sound by exporting it to the plains of Assam and other regions of North East (NE) India.

Potato is rich source of starch (carbohydrate) content which provides energy and has little protein. Because of its vitamin C and some mineral values it is considered to be great nourishing food. Potato is staple food of the Irish who consume it along with milk and half a kilogram of fresh potato boiled in water will generate enough vitamin C to meet daily requirement for an adult. But if cooked potato is stored for longer period of time then vitamin C is also lost which in the long run will be useless and of no value at all. Nutritious contents are usually present much beneath the skin and very near the surface, and therefore should be thinly peeled before cooking. White potatoes, like tomatoes and eggplants, tobacco as well as some narcotic plants, are members of the nightshade family whereas sweet potatoes belong to the meaning-glory family. White potato is a tuber, the enlarged portion of an underground stem while sweet potato is part of a root.

Potato varieties grown in Meghalaya are kufri Megha, kufri jyoti, great scot, arran consul and up-to-date. Kufri jyoti and kufri navin were brought from Himachal Pradesh to Meghalaya right after statehood during early 1970s and kufri navin was rejected since it did not suit to the area whereas kufri jyoti flourished. Agricultural scientists and researchers soon developed high yielding varieties known as kufri Megha-I and kufri Megha- II which became highly popular besides being very productive and profitable, and which continue to further improve till date. At time of seed-selection, proper care should be taken so that they will sprout early and weighs in range 40-50grams each. Best natural manures are cow dung, pig dung, goat and sheep dung, decay of plants and organic sources like vermin compost. Soil testing is important because soil fertility varies with each passing season. There are generally two seasons in a year for growing potatoes, summer during February-March and winter in July-August.

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