Great Potato Famine Essay

1646 words - 7 pages

The Irish Potato Famine occurred in 1845 and had killed tons of people. Over 750,000 people had died and more than a million had emigrated. At the time Ireland’s population was only about 8 million so this famine had devastated many families. The people of Ireland at this time were so dependent upon the potato that it was a main staple. The Irish would consume the potato with almost every meal, and for some the potato was the only food that they were ever able to eat. The famine was produced by a protist called Phytophthora infestans (P. Infestans), when it was introduced from central highlands of Mexico.
The potato blight originated from Mexico, and then spread to America. Since Britain and Ireland did many trades with America there was a high possibility of the P. infestans to spread, and it did just that. A batch of potatoes from America was infected and a ship sent over, that batch had caused nearly every potato in Ireland to become infected as well. The P. infestans were very easy to spread as it germinates on the leaves of the potato plant, and in the soil near it. It is hard to realize that a potato has been infected until later in the growing season as the darker spots on the outside of it don’t show until later. After a potato is infected it will develop sporangia, a place in which spores and formed asexually, and will then release these spores to further contaminate other potatoes.
“The potato, from the perennial Solanum tuberosum, is the world’s fourth largest food crop.” (Potato History) The potato was originally from the Andes Mountains and a field could be planted with numerous amounts of them making them very good for growing in places with very limited space. The Inca Indians were the first to grow potatoes; they were thought to have started growing potatoes around 8,000 BC to 5,000 BC. The potato was originally introduced to Europe in 1565, where the Irish had used them for back up. When the winters were harsher in the 1700s the Irish would use them for food in the winter, when all other sources of food were scarce. Thanks to Ireland’s weather conditions the potato was very easily grown and could be produced in mass amounts. By the end of the 1800s the potato was a main staple for the Irish and they would eat the potato as part of their daily lives. Eventually, the poor people of Ireland would rely on the potato as their only food source.
The land consolidation laws forced the farmers to grow potatoes in a tightly packed space, as you don’t need much room to grow potatoes. A lot of potatoes good fit in one acre of land and could feed a family for a long time. Since, the potatoes were all grown in one confined space the P. Infestans had a very easy time spreading to each potato, thus resulting in P. Infestans spreading to different fields.
“The pattern of consolidation, making larger farms from smaller farms, increased competition for land and pressure to acquire land.” (p. p12.nysed.gov) Land consolidation was making...

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