Irish Potato Famine

by Gerrett Davison

The potato famine was one of the worst food shortage epidemics to take place in Europe during the 19th century. The potato blight fungal disease didn’t just take place in Ireland, but it was spread throughout central Europe making its way into the surrounding countries. About one out of five died in Ireland from starvation or disease during the potato famine.

The potato famine was so devastating to Ireland because over one third of the Irish population was dependent on potatoes whether it be religious, economic, social, or political views. The potato famine caused a little over one million deaths just in Ireland alone, which was about one-eighth of the population. Over two million Irish fled to the “New World” and many other countries because of starvation, and the government doing nothing about the situation.

The high wind speeds and warmer wet weather conditions in Ireland, are the perfect environment for the potato blight to thrive and spread in. The weather in Ireland spread the pathogen like wild fire throughout the country and other countries depleting the potato supply. Right around ten days of infection, the potato would shrivel up and rot. This happened because the fungus would get inside and start fermenting and cause the leaves and roots to fail which caused the rotting.


“BBC – History – British History in Depth: The Irish Famine.” BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.

“Great Famine.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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