Super Spuds – defending our dinner, one potato at a time.
Potatoes are the plants behind chips, mash, roasties and so many of our favourite foods, but did you know they are under threat? Just like us, they get sick from illnesses like viruses and bacterial infections. Incredibly, potatoes (or “spuds”) have special defences to help them stay healthy, but they need our help to reach their full “Super Spud” potential.
This page is full of information and activities on potato pests and diseases. Learn about the mini villains that infect potato plants. Discover insect villains that spread their fellow diseases. Find out how we can harness the power of potatoes to fight plant pests and diseases.
Did you know that there are plant defenders across the world that learn about potatoes and investigate how to protect them from pests and diseases? Plant defenders at James Hutton Institute in Scotland have created these resources to introduce you to Super Spuds and Mini Villains. Through them, you can enter the world of potatoes to understand how we can help our plants to stay healthy and keep food on our plates.
Teachers can share loads of fascinating facts and important information about Super Spuds and Mini Villians in this resource created by Plant Defenders at the James Hutton Institute.
Potato plants (Solanum tuberosum is the science name for them or “Spuds” as we call them) were first found in America, but now they’re grown all over the world and there are thousands of different types of potato. You can plant a potato underground and it will sprout leaves and grow up into the sunshine. With lots of sunlight, warmth and rain, they grow tall and the leaves send energy down to the roots in the soil, where more potatoes grow. They are one of the most grown vegetables in the world!
Sadly, mini villains have also spread across the world and attack our potato plants. They lurk in the soil, hitch a ride on insects, splash down in raindrops and sneak in on our garden tools. Maybe you can help?
Learn about the mini villains that threaten our spuds so we can fight them off and keep our potato plants healthy. Click here to download the Super Spuds Wanted list and have a go at matching each villain with the damage it causes on potatoes.
Get your pens/pencils out for our Super Spuds Colouring Sheets.
Plant defenders get up close to the mini villains to really work out what tools they have to attack plants with. Plant defenders make mini villains look bigger with magnifying glasses and microscopes so they can see them clearly. Early plant defenders stained mini villains with different dyes to really understand how they are made and survive. They often drew and then photographed what they found. Can you draw your own mini villain, using the features on the villain’s Wanted List? Maybe you could even create a super villain??
Now, science is so clever that plant defenders can change small building blocks inside the mini villains to find out what they are made of, or fiddle with their tools, and really understand how they work.
Click here and build your own villain out of modelling clay, using the ideas in this mini villains guide.
Super Spud heroes
Some spuds have secret defences where they can detect mini villains early and kick them out.
Some are super adapted to hot temperatures so they can beat the other potato plants, who struggle in the heat.
One special super spud is super hairy and gives off a stinky smell that repels nasty aphids, so keeps them far away, along with their mini virus villains, hitching a ride.