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Miniature root vegetables and dandelion leaves ‘to replace potatoes and lettuce because of climate change’

May 9, 2021

By Paul Homewood


h/t Ian Magness



Jackanory comes from Kew Gardens today!




Potatoes and lettuce will have to be replaced in the UK by small, mustardy root vegetables and dandelion leaves as a warming climate means we cannot rely on traditional crops, Kew Gardens has said.

Horticulturalists and scientists at the gardens are working to see which food plants can be grown to resist increasing pests and diseases, sunnier summers and warmer, wetter winters.

Next week, a new TV show exploring the secrets of the gardens will launch on Channel 5, showing how gardeners and scientists worked together during lockdown.

Helena Dove, who runs the Kitchen Garden at the facility, grows crops selected by scientists to see how they fare in a British garden plot.

She said that potato blight, a disease which can wipe out the whole crop, is becoming more common because of a warmer climate in this country. At some point it may become unviable to grow them, she and other horticulturists and scientists at Kew believe.

"Traditional potatoes are becoming very hard to grow because of blight," she said.

Two strange-looking, knobbly little roots are being trialed instead, as they fare better in a warm climate and are resistant to blight.

The gardener explained: "We have been trying to grow root vegetables that could be substituted in the future. One we grow is oculus tuberosa, and tropaeolum tuberosum – the former is a little lemony root, it does really well, we are breeding it in the UK to make it more suitable for our climate. We also have a mustardy root crop, and sweet potatoes are doing well as well. They could be a replacement. We won’t know for tens of years but we have to start somewhere."


Many who tried to grow lettuces during last year’s heatwave will have noticed it was an uphill battle. These hot summers are becoming more common, so Ms Dove is working to find hardier alternatives to the salad crop.

She said: "Lettuces bolt when it gets hot so we may not be able to grow them in hot dry summers. We are growing tropical leaves, orache, tree spinach, they are traditionally grown for their grain but the leaves are edible so they sort of replace spinach. We are also growing dandelion which have really bitter but delicious leaves. They will keep growing through anything. We are trialling all this for salad in the kitchen garden."


The idea that potatoes need a perfect climate is nonsensical. They are grown in a wide variety of climates around the world, hot and cold, dry and wet:



Harvest can certainly be adversely affected by the weather. Dry summers can stunt growth, but equally wet summers are not good news either, as farmers found to their cost in 2012.

However potato yields in the UK have been stable since 1990, following a period of rapid increase:





And UK summers are neither getting wetter nor drier: 


As for lettuces, the dear lady seems to have totally lost the plot. Again, lettuces are grown in many countries with warmer climates than ours, including India and Spain. However, temperatures above 24C are not optimal:




Hotter countries, such as Spain, get around this by growing at cooler times of year, typically November to April.

According to the British Leafy Salads Association, the lettuce season runs from May to October, but planting can commence earlier if it is a warm spring. And the warmer the weather, the faster the leaf growth:




In other words, lettuce production is likely to benefit from a warmer climate, as planting can start earlier and finish later.

As for days over 24C, the summer of 2018 notwithstanding, they are still a rarity in England:



In reality, whether British climate changes or not, the change will be so slow that nobody will even notice, never mind the lettuces!

  1. A. Badger permalink
    May 9, 2021 5:59 pm

    This really is codswallop of a high order. If controlling potato blight is going to be a problem, it will only be on account of the absurd and yet burgeoning restrictions on the use of fungicides (also insecticides) imposed by politicians desperate to appear ‘Green’.

    Even were the UK’s climate to undergo warming, an early start to the season would be no bad thing, meaning we could import less from places like Egypt, Israel, Majorca and Jersey, where farmers manage what this twit from Kew claims is impossible – growing potatoes in a warmer climate.

    Clearly, this is simply a bandwagon jumping exercise. ‘What can we publish to get column inches in the gullible media and set of the nodding dogs of woke Islington?’

    In closing, I planted my onion sets today – over a month late on account of a spell of cold and frost in the SE of England for which only solar astronomers appear to have a convincing explanation. Lettuce remains in the greenhouse. But don’t tell them that at Kew.

    • May 10, 2021 7:45 am

      I planted out two peppers into my large wooden trug under polythene sheeting. The next day they had been nibbled to their base by snails.

      We have a wall behind the trug and I suspect they absnail down to pillage our crops. I believe the snails are trained and dispatched in killer packs by our local shop who have just started selling pepper plants. A coincidence? I think not.

  2. kjbirby permalink
    May 9, 2021 6:04 pm

    Only last week we were told that dandelions won’t grow in future Britain ‘because of climate change’.

    What planet are these idiots living on? I wish it wasn’t this one!

    • Patrick healy permalink
      May 10, 2021 7:26 am

      As Irish ex pat I may have a pov on potatoes!
      During the Great Hunger in the mid 1800’s when up to 4 million Irish people died or escaped due mainly to the failure of their stable diet – spuds- the records show that the ambient temp was several degrees colder than now.
      Also where I now live – in sub arctic Scotland – the only vegetation visible along the road verges are pissybeds.
      How do those gangsters sleep at night?

  3. Broadlands permalink
    May 9, 2021 6:13 pm

    “… working to see which food plants can be grown to resist increasing pests and diseases, sunnier summers and warmer, wetter winters.”

    This is just another dire climate forecast. One that predicts increasing sunnier summers and warmer and wetter winters with increasing pests and diseases…to accompany them?

    Well, it’s certainly nice to be ready, but how will one actually know when to replace these crops? Suppose it’s just weather. It isn’t sunnier or wetter…even colder. Switch crops anyhow? This is silly.

  4. terryfwall permalink
    May 9, 2021 6:17 pm

    “One we grow is oculus tuberosa, and tropaeolum tuberosum – the former is a little lemony root, it does really well, we are breeding it in the UK to make it more suitable for our climate.”

    If the effort put into breeding a version of an unknown root vegetable to replace potatoes were put instead into breeding new varieties of potatoes in case the climate changed the supposed problem would be solved.

    But can it really be true that an increase of a degree or two would so increase the incidence of blight that the entire potato crop would be lost?

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      May 9, 2021 11:36 pm

      tropaeolum tuberosum is known as Mashua and has been grown in South America for hundreds of years. It has a reputation as depressing male fertility (from Inca times) so there may be some sales resistance. From the Andes so requires cooler summers.
      I cannot find any reference to Oculus tuberosa, so cannot say what weather it likes.

      • Chilli permalink
        May 10, 2021 9:06 am

        > it has a reputation for depressing male fertility

        That would be seen as an extra bonus by these anti-family globalist weirdos.

    • Patrick healy permalink
      May 10, 2021 7:31 am

      Never mind trying to “put some effort into breeding …. New varieties of potatoes” how about trying to breed some real scientists? The present crop have failed to germinate.

    • May 10, 2021 12:17 pm

      As a botanist (plant taxonomist) I don’t wish to be overly picky. However, when using a scientific binomial name, the genus is always capitalized. Those you mentioned would be Oculus tuberosa, and Tropaeolum tuberosum.

      Sorry to hear that Kew has gone down the gurgler (as my Australian girlfriend would say), scientifically speaking. My first job with my first graduate degree was in the US National Herbarium of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Kew was also one of the gold standards w/ Leningrad and Paris Herbarium. The Smithsonian drove off the cliff also.

  5. Gamecock permalink
    May 9, 2021 6:23 pm

    Most of the world is warmer than bloody England. We grow potatoes in South Carolina, way warmer than UK. Seriously, this report is daft.

    • markl permalink
      May 9, 2021 6:57 pm

      +1 and such an obvious reply. “Science” that only takes a limited point of view isn’t science at all …. it’s bias confirmation.

  6. Is it just me? permalink
    May 9, 2021 6:27 pm

    Now I know why I let my ‘Friends of Kew’ membership lapse. It’s embarrassing!

  7. Stuart Brown permalink
    May 9, 2021 6:30 pm

    Wasn’t the worst potato blight in Ireland and Scotland in the 1840s? Somewhere toward the end of the Little Ice Age?

    • Duker permalink
      May 9, 2021 11:37 pm

      That blight disease was thought to begin in Mexico ( from genetic analysis) and caused a severe outbreak in NE US before crossing Atlantic to Ireland

  8. May 9, 2021 6:49 pm

    What are they going to grow when the climate cools as predicted by real climate scientists_

    • Lorde Late permalink
      May 9, 2021 7:06 pm

      Cabbages I geuss for our cabbage soup.

  9. Lorde Late permalink
    May 9, 2021 7:05 pm


    When I read this in the DT I thought of you and the site, I was going to say that I thought most of our ‘salad’ stuff comes from spain which when I went last was considerably warmer than kent, but ive been beaten to it!
    Is it not the case that today much salad is grown hydroponicaly or in temerature (and high Co2 concentration) controled glass houses (which of course makes the outside temperature irrelavent). I thought potatoes came to europe from the Americas where if my history recalls was landed at first in the southern parts which I presume would have been somewhat hotter than England, happy to be corrected.

    I wonder what mr Orwell would think?

    • Gamecock permalink
      May 9, 2021 9:40 pm

      When you were in Spain, did the people complain, “I wish Spain were as cold as England?”

      Another thing . . . without fossil fuels, you won’t be able to import food from the Continent.

      Y’all gonna die. Thanks, Kew Gardens!

      • Phoenix44 permalink
        May 10, 2021 9:13 am

        And there’s the rub – it’s just fine for Spain to be warmer than England by a fair bit but it’s going to be utterly disastrous if England is just a little bit warmer than England. All of a sudden we won’t be able to grow anything.

  10. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 9, 2021 7:15 pm

    There are more varieties of potato and lettuce than you can shake a stick at, all with different attributes.

    There’s already heat tolerant and bolt resistant varieties of lettuce and blight resistant potatoes – although it’s a bit of an arms race with fungus evolution. For professional growers fungicides are still effective. The risk can be avoided 90% of the time by growing first/main early varieties anyway, the worst blight rarely starts to occur before June.

    Their alternatives sound like they would need vastly more land to produce the same weight of crop. And what they inevitably forget is that as soon you start growing any crop/plant on an industrial scale, sooner or later some disease it is susceptible to will take advantage and run wild.

    The number of times over the years Gardeners World etc. has told us climate change means that we must plant tropical plants to cope with the heat, or arid plants to deal with the drought, only to lose them all to cold and wet within a year or two.

    The possible range of natural climatic variation for the same month year on year in the UK is so wide it makes a mockery of their claims. The fact is some years some crops will fair better than others and some years some may be a total loss – thus it has always been. So thank goodness for global transport and long term food storage, all made possible by abundant cheap energy from fossil fuels.

    • Chilli permalink
      May 10, 2021 9:18 am

      > The number of times over the years Gardeners World has told us climate change
      > means we must plant tropical/arid plants to cope with the heat/drought, only to
      > lose them all to cold and wet within a year or two.

      Yup I recall an episode where Monty Don had to take out his frost-killed Bay trees in the **same episode** they had a load of guff about climate change. Cognitive dissonance not a problem at the BBC.

  11. Penda100 permalink
    May 9, 2021 7:24 pm

    Might this be a “Let them eat cake” moment? Please.

  12. MrGrimNasty permalink
    May 9, 2021 7:24 pm

    History shows, the Irish (and elsewhere) Spud Rot was solved by breeding new varieties.

    “The researchers concluded that it wasn’t in fact US-1 that caused the blight, but a previously unknown strain, HERB-1, which had originated in the Americas (most likely in Mexico’s Toluca Valley) sometime in the early 19th century before spreading to Europe in the 1840s. HERB-1, they believe, was responsible for the Great Famine and hundreds of other potato crop failures around the world. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that improvements in crop breeding yielded potato varieties that proved resistant to HERB-1 that the deadly infection was stopped in its tracks. Scientists believe that the HERB-1 strain is now extinct.”

    • Stuart Brown permalink
      May 9, 2021 8:19 pm

      Thanks for that Mr GN. So HERB-1 was the WuFlu of the spud world n the 1840s and it had SFA to do with temperature?

  13. Ray Sanders permalink
    May 9, 2021 8:14 pm

    I am making a point of contacting all the people who both write and “appear” in these sort of articles and point out how much the facts make them look incredibly silly. May I suggest everyone else does to really embarrass them?

  14. Barbara permalink
    May 9, 2021 8:16 pm

    As a regular DT reader I now look at it each morning on my iPad and go straight to the editorial and comments pages bypassing all this sort of thing that comes before. There must be a hotline between Kew, the RHS and any number of NGOs and Quangos direct to the DT and then they dutifully whack it in and feed-it to us like pap. One thing I have learned by seeking information from other sources, such as yours Paul, is that I have managed to ensure my critical reasoning factors are still in there somewhere despite all attempts to stamp them out. I have sent regular emails to the DT about them pushing out press releases with no questions asked.

  15. May 9, 2021 8:22 pm

    How thrilling that we will soon only have mealworms and dandelions to eat instead of good wholesome meat and veg our farmers grow. I am losing the will to live in this new Green Utopia. Maybe that’s their plan….

  16. johnbuk permalink
    May 9, 2021 8:35 pm

    Barbara – it’s a cut and paste job – pity the poor “environmental” correspondents – CTRL+C then CTRL+V all day long. What a bore, but at least they don’t have to read any of it.

    • Barbara permalink
      May 9, 2021 10:46 pm

      Is that how it works? I should have realised!

      • Patrick healy permalink
        May 10, 2021 8:09 am

        If you have a spare minute can I direct you to a great series of articles 4 days ago over at Anthony Watts site
        They are by Kip Hansen entitled ‘Bad Science Journalism and Egregious Lies.
        It highlights an out fit called Covering Climate Now in partnership with hundreds of international “news” channels who coordinate their coverage of the great global warming fraud. Naturally the lying BBC and their house organ the Gruinard are involved.
        It would be good if Paul found time to refer to Kip Hansens piece.

  17. bobn permalink
    May 9, 2021 8:46 pm

    Has anyone told the Spanish that their country is too hot to grow potatos? No more ‘Potatas Bravas!’
    And the Sicilians and Greeks will have to give up eating Chips – made from all the potatos they grow !!!!!

  18. Aaron Halliwell permalink
    May 9, 2021 9:03 pm

    Israel grows potatoes in the Negev Desert! It’s one of their main crops.

  19. May 10, 2021 1:35 am

    For some reason the climate change issue attracts eco wacko activists of all colors.

  20. Stephen Lord permalink
    May 10, 2021 4:16 am

    We grow potatoes in Southern Californi a . Nuff said

  21. Steve permalink
    May 10, 2021 7:47 am

    Kew seems to have been taken over by the usual wokeys from the BBC and academia. They are also on a programme of de- toxifying plants with any name with a connection with the Brutish Empire on account of Brits inventing slavery. Climate Change will be ingrained with spud death a high priority.

  22. May 10, 2021 8:41 am

    I lived in the Middle Eastern country of Oman for 20 years, where summer temperatures reach 50 degrees. Most of our lettuces were grown locally. Potatoes were also local or imported from Egypt, Lebanon or India. Last time I looked all these countries are somewhat warmer than chilly UK.

  23. Phoenix44 permalink
    May 10, 2021 9:16 am

    Because until recently the climate in the UK never varied from year to year. Each summer was exactky like the previous one, each winter entirely predictable. Spring arrived on the same day every year.

    That’s the only reason we were able to cope.

  24. Colin MacDonald permalink
    May 10, 2021 10:50 am

    In Scotland we grow a fair amount of potatoes, cultivation is limited by cold, there isn’t a northern limit but there’s certainly an altitude limit, I would guess there are no tattie fields above 250m. A warming climate would allow more, not less, cultivation. What interests me, is that even with AGW I’ve never heard of farmers bringing hitherto unproductive uplands under the plough.

    • A. Badger permalink
      May 10, 2021 11:11 am

      What is frightening is that the sort of people producing this ‘research’ are, surely, going to know this and yet they go along with the farce. You don’t get to run research projects at an institution like Kew if you don’t understand the sort of basic facts that even the average amateur gardener knows. So why do they play this game? Fear? Ambition?

      • David V permalink
        May 10, 2021 1:56 pm


    • May 10, 2021 11:45 am

      In upland Dartmoor we can see from the records in the Domesday book that cultivation was carried out then at a height 125 metres higher than is possible today

  25. May 10, 2021 12:45 pm

    A number of years ago, a fellow WV Wildflower Pilgrimage leader gave one of the evening programs. PJ is a plant taxonomist (as am I) and was with the WV Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR). He was talking about a somewhat rare plant in the mountains which they were following (scientifically speaking) and kept saying he hoped it could survive the climate change. The next day, he continued this line w/ me in private. Finally, in unbelief, I said, “PJ you don’t mean man-caused global warming do you?” He puffed up and said, “Yes, I do.”
    I countered with, “PJ that is a hoax,” where upon he instantly screamed “science denier” at me. He then demanded that I stay and listen to him as he “got my mind right.” I declined and left.

    The good news is that I began to search for legitimate sources of actual climate information and found Notalotofpeopleknowthat blog. I even sent him a link to it…..crickets chirping. Although I could have pointed out to him that I had not only the MA (as he did from a small school), but a PhD from one of the southern “ivy leagues.” It would have made no difference. And, as we can clearly see, scientific stupidity and naivete is “equal opportunity” in today’s scientific community.

    My late father (a chemistry professor) frequently said that you could not deal w/ people who did not tell the truth. We have reached a time when that is true in spades. Basically, you cannot believe almost everything you are told: science, media, medicine, etc. This is not a good place to be.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      May 10, 2021 1:55 pm

      Good for you!

      Of course the trouble is that there are dozens of powerful supposedly credible sources that will describe sites like this as ‘promoters of climate denial’ or worse, and probably toss in ‘fossil fuel funded’ to boot.

      Thus it is an irrelevance, the well is poisoned, summarily dismissed as the hangout of fringe conspiracy theorists, bad faith actors etc.

      • May 11, 2021 12:14 pm

        It does fascinate and sadden me that people, such as PJ, educated in the sciences and having researched, written and defended a thesis seem to totally abandon critical thinking and logic.

        Today, I marvel at the good fortune my two brothers and I had to select John and Eleanor Gibson as our parents. They modeled ethics, good behavior, and integrity. It rubbed off on the 3 of us. Now, at 76, I am grateful that I have a set of internal guidelines and thus do not have to stick a wet finger in the air to agonize over what my opinion should be over a given circumstance.

  26. Ed P permalink
    May 10, 2021 12:52 pm

    Dandelion, also known as ‘piss-a-bed’ (pisse-lit) had a pronounced diuretic effect. Eat the leaves at your own risk!

  27. Ulric Lyons permalink
    May 10, 2021 2:02 pm

    Sunnier summers?

  28. dennisambler permalink
    May 10, 2021 3:51 pm

    They never give up:
    Climate may turn UK Mediterranean June 2005

  29. Pancho Plail permalink
    May 13, 2021 2:13 pm

    How is it that the Spanish and North Africans can grow all these salad crops that we see in supermarkets when their average temperatures are so much higher than ours?

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