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As of 2014, China led the world in potato production, and, together with India, produced 37% of the world's potatoes.The English word potato comes from Spanish patata (the name used in Spain).The 16th-century English herbalist John Gerard referred to sweet potatoes as "common potatoes", and used the terms "bastard potatoes" and "Virginia potatoes" for the species we now call "potato".

Over 99% of the presently cultivated potatoes worldwide descended from varieties that originated in the lowlands of south-central Chile, which have displaced formerly popular varieties from the Andes.

Cross-breeding has been done repeatedly to transfer resistances to certain pests and diseases from the gene pool of wild species to the gene pool of cultivated potato species. There are two triploid species (with 36 chromosomes): S. The Andean potato is adapted to the short-day conditions prevalent in the mountainous equatorial and tropical regions where it originated; the Chilean potato, however, native to the Chiloé Archipelago, is adapted to the long-day conditions prevalent in the higher latitude region of southern Chile.

Genetically modified varieties have met public resistance in the United States and in the European Union. Nonetheless, genetic testing of the wide variety of cultivars and wild species affirms that all potato subspecies derive from a single origin in the area of present-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia (from a species in the Solanum brevicaule complex).

The Spanish Royal Academy says the Spanish word is a hybrid of the Taíno batata (sweet potato) and the Quechua papa (potato).

The name originally referred to the sweet potato although the two plants are not closely related.

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