Potato research in India formally began on 1st April, 1935 with the opening of three breeding and seed production stations at Shimla, Kufri (both Shimla hills) and Bhowali (Kumaon hills), under the Imperial Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. In 1945, a scheme for the establishment of Central Potato Research Institute was drawn up under the guidance of the then Agriculture Advisor to the Government of India, Sir Herbert Steward and Sir Pheroz M. Kharegat, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture. Dr. B. P. Pal, Dr. S. Ramanujam, Dr. Pushkarnath, and Dr. R.S. Vasudeva participated in the formulation of the scheme and in establishment of the institute. Dr. S. Ramanujam, who was then working as Second Economic Botanist at IARI, was appointed as an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) for implementing the scheme in 1946. The institute was established in August 1949 at Patna and started functioning from an old single-storey, barrack-type building provided by the Government of Bihar. Three small units under the IARI looking after potato, namely Potato Breeding Station at Shimla, Seed Certification Station at Kufri, and Potato Multiplication Station at Bhowali were merged with the newly created CPRI. The headquarter of the institute was shifted to Shimla, Himachal Pradesh in 1956 in order to facilitate hybridization work and better maintenance of seed health. The growth and development of potato in the country has never looked back after that. India emerged as the global leader in the area of sub-tropical potato production as a result of well-planned research effort that has been supported and strengthened during successive five year plans. Potato production jumped from mere 1.54 million tonnes from 0.23 million ha area in the year 1949-50 to 45 million tones from 1.96 million ha area during 2012-13, thus making India the second largest potato producer in the world after China.
Potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) is one of the most important food crops after wheat, maize and rice, contributing to food and nutritional security in the world. This tuber crop of the family solanaceae has about 200 wild species. It originated in the high Andean hills of South America, from where it was first introduced into Europe towards the end of 16th century through Spanish conquerors. There the potato developed as a temperate crop and was later distributed throughout the world largely as a consequence of the colonial expansion of European countries. It was introduced to India by early 17th century probably through British missionaries or Portuguese traders.