Chapter 2 : The Irish Potato Blight

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The Irish Potato Blight, Page 1 of 2

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In 1833, as the number of sick immigrants arriving in Canada dwindled, the Grosse-Ile detention station fell silent. A decade later, however, it once again became active due to the changes that were taking place in Ireland. Four physicians at Grosse-Ile, aided by a crew of eight, worked from dawn until dark every day digging trenches and burying the dead three deep. The potato, introduced into Europe by the mid-18th century, was never a cash crop; however, because it was better adapted to the cool, moist conditions in Ireland than other crops, most of the Irish population was dependent on it as a supplemental food source by 1800. The Irish peasants on the worst land came to rely almost exclusively on potatoes to store over the winter and to feed themselves and their livestock, especially the pigs. Potato plants mature faster than most crops, taking 90 to 120 days, and edible tubers can be harvested in 60 days. The potato tuber is higher in protein than soybean, and half a potato can provide half of the human daily requirement of vitamin C. The social and political impacts of the Great Hunger or the Irish Potato Famine (1845 to 1849) were profound.

Citation: Sherman I. 2007. The Irish Potato Blight, p 19-32. In Twelve Diseases That Changed Our World. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816346.ch2
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