Journal Article

The three-dimensional distribution of minerals in potato tubers

Nithya K. Subramanian, Philip J. White, Martin R. Broadley and Gavin Ramsay

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 107, issue 4, pages 681-691
Published in print April 2011 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online February 2011 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI:
The three-dimensional distribution of minerals in potato tubers

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  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Plant Sciences and Forestry


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Background and Aims

The three-dimensional distributions of mineral elements in potato tubers provide insight into their mechanisms of transport and deposition. Many of these minerals are essential to a healthy human diet, and characterizing their distribution within the potato tuber will guide the effective utilization of this staple foodstuff.


The variation in mineral composition within the tuber was determined in three dimensions, after determining the orientation of the harvested tuber in the soil. The freeze-dried tuber samples were analysed for minerals using inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Minerals measured included those of nutritional significance to the plant and to human consumers, such as iron, zinc, copper, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and sulphur.

Key Results

The concentrations of most minerals were higher in the skin than in the flesh of tubers. The potato skin contained about 17 % of total tuber zinc, 34 % of calcium and 55 % of iron. On a fresh weight basis, most minerals were higher in tuber flesh at the stem end than the bud end of the tuber. Potassium, however, displayed a gradient in the opposite direction. The concentrations of phosphorus, copper and calcium decreased from the periphery towards the centre of the tuber.


The distribution of minerals varies greatly within the potato tuber. Low concentrations of some minerals relative to those in leaves may be due to their low mobility in phloem, whereas high concentrations in the skin may reflect direct uptake from the soil across the periderm. In tuber flesh, different minerals show distinct patterns of distribution in the tuber, several being consistent with phloem unloading in the tuber and limited onward movement. These findings have implications both for understanding directed transport of minerals in plants to stem-derived storage organs and for the dietary implications of different food preparation methods for potato tubers.

Keywords: Calcium; iron; minerals; potassium; potato; Solanum tuberosum; tuber; zinc

Journal Article.  6846 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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