Potatoes are one of the world’s most important crops. Despite the plants’ Andean origins, potato yield gaps in Bolivia and Ecuador raise food security concerns in the region. In 2014, Bolivia and Ecuador experienced potato yields of 5.4 and 12.7 tonnes per hectare, respectively. These yields fall well below those in Peru and Colombia, suggesting that factors beyond geography are at play.
Larger farm size, improved potato seed varieties, reliable access to farm inputs, and modern machinery can all improve yields. Lacking access to a seed system that reliably produces quality seed lowers them. While all four Andean countries have government-supported research and development programs for farmers, Bolivia’s INIAF and Ecuador’s INIAP may not have sufficient resources to bridge their yield gaps. Ecuador is still struggling to recover economically from an acute drop in oil prices in 2015 followed the next year by an earthquake that hit northeast of Quito, the capital. Bolivia also suffered from a severe drought in 2016 that threatened 290,000 hectares of agricultural lands. Particularly for small-holder farmers, low yields can further exacerbate food insecurity during periods of extreme weather and economic uncertainty. We recommend using Gro Intelligence to monitor yields and environmental conditions to better predict food shortage risks.