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«Andean roots and tubers: Ahipa, arracacha, maca and yacon M. Hermann and J. Heller, editors Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and ...»

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Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21.

Andean roots and tubers:

Ahipa, arracacha, maca

and yacon

M. Hermann and

J. Heller, editors

Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21.

Andean roots and tubers:

Ahipa, arracacha, maca

and yacon

M. Hermann and

J. Heller, editors

Andean roots and tubers: Ahipa, arracacha, maca and yacon

The International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) is an autonomous international scientific organization operating under the aegis of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The international status of IPGRI is conferred under an Establishment Agreement which, by March 1997, had been signed by the Governments of Algeria, Australia, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire; Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Guinea, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Slovak Republic, Sudan, Switzerland, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda and Ukraine. IPGRI’s mandate is to advance the conservation and use of plant genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations. IPGRI works in partnership with other organizations, undertaking research, training and the provision of scientific and technical advice and information, and has a particularly strong programme link with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Financial support for the research agenda of IPGRI is provided by the Governments of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA, and by the Asian Development Bank, CTA, European Union, IDRC, IFAD, Interamerican Development Bank, UNDP and the World Bank.

The Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) is operated as an independent foundation under public law. The foundation statute assigns to IPK the task of conducting basic research in the area of plant genetics and research on cultivated plants.

The geographic designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of IPGRI, the CGIAR or IPK concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

Similarly, the views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of these participating organizations.

–  –  –

Contents Foreword Andean roots and tubers at the crossroads M. Hermann and J. Heller Ahipa. Pachyvhizus ahipa (Wedd.) Parodi M. Sørensen, W.J. Grüneberg and B. Ørting Arracacha. Arracacia xanthorrhiza Bancroft M. Hermann Maca. Lepidium meyenii Walp.

C.F. Quirós and R. Aliaga Cárdenas Yacon. Smallanthus sonchifolius (Poepp. & Endl.) H. Robinson Alfredo Grau and Julio Rea Appendix I. Research contacts 4 Andean roots and tubers: Ahipa, arracacha, maca and yacon Foreword Humanity relies on a diverse range of cultivated species; at least 6000 such species are used for a variety of purposes. It is often stated that only a few staple crops produce the majority of the food supply. This might be correct but the important contribution of many minor species should not be underestimated. Agricultural research has traditionally focused on these staples, while relatively little attention has been given to minor (or underutilized or neglected) crops, particularly by scientists in developed countries. Such crops have, therefore, generally failed to attract significant research funding. Unlike most staples, many of these neglected species are adapted to various marginal growing conditions such as those of the Andean and Himalayan highlands, arid areas, salt-affected soils, etc. Furthermore, many crops considered neglected at a global level are staples at a national or regional level (e.g. tef, fonio, Andean roots and tubers, etc.), contribute considerably to food supply in certain periods (e.g. indigenous fruit trees) or are important for a nutritionally well-balanced diet (e.g. indigenous vegetables). The limited information available on many important and frequently basic aspects of neglected and underutilized crops hinders their development and their sustainable conservation. One major factor hampering this development is that the information available on germplasm is scattered and not readily accessible, i.e. only found in ‘grey literature’ or written in little-known languages. Moreover, existing knowledge on the genetic potential of neglected crops is limited. This has resulted, frequently, in uncoordinated research efforts for most neglected crops, as well as in inefficient approaches to the conservation of these genetic resources.

This series of monographs intends to draw attention to a number of species which have been neglected in a varying degree by researchers or have been underutilized economically. It is hoped that the information compiled will contribute to: (1) identifying constraints in and possible solutions to the use of the crops, (2) identifying possible untapped genetic diversity for breeding and crop improvement programmes and (3) detecting existing gaps in available conservation and use approaches. This series intends to contribute to improvement of the potential value of these crops through increased use of the available genetic diversity. In addition, it is hoped that the monographs in the series will form a valuable reference source for all those scientists involved in conservation, research, improvement and promotion of these crops.

This series is the result of a joint project between the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) and the Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK). Financial support provided by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) of Germany through the German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) is duly acknowledged.

Series editors:

Dr Joachim Heller, Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) Dr Jan Engels, International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) Prof. Dr Karl Hammer, Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21. 5 Andean roots and tubers at the crossroads At least 25 species of root and tuber crops are native to South America. They belong to 16 botanical genera and 15 families including mono- and dicotyledons. This represents a greater range of root and tuber crop diversity in terms of taxonomic affiliation and ecological adaptation than occurs anywhere else in the world (Hawkes 1989). New World root and tuber crop diversity is particularly high-in the Northern and Central Andes, a mountainous area north of the Tropic of Capricorn, which makes up only a minor fraction of the continent’s land mass, but is of great altitudinal and climatic variation. The resulting floristic richness and ancient cultural diversity led to the Andes’ abundance in domesticates.

Apart from the seven species of cultivated (Solanum) potatoes, of which only the Irish potato (Solanum tuberosum) is known worldwide, there are another nine lesserknown species native to the Andes (Table l), commonly referred to as Andean Root and Tuber Crops (ARTC). ARTC are mainly grown for their edible underground organs and are traditionally, but not exclusively, associated with indigenous people, who use them for subsistence or as cash crops. From a classification point of view, ARTC would be considered a fairly inappropriate assemblage of very dissimilar things. Not only does each of them belong to a distinct botanical family, they differ considerably in life form, propagation method, chemical composition, utilization, storage behaviour as well as economic scope.

With the exception of biennial maca (which can assume an annual habit under certain conditions; see chapter on maca), ARTC are perennial plants. Although most ARTC have retained sexual fertility, they are mostly propagated vegetatively.

Interestingly, this also applies to arracacha, which belongs to the umbellifer family with numerous Old World representatives usually grown from seed. Ahipa and maca are exclusively grown from sexually obtained seed (Table 1).

As seen in Table 1, ARTC occur in three altitudinally determined phytogeographic zones: the cool-temperate highlands from about 2500 to 4000 m altitude, the subtropical zone in inter-Andean valleys and on both slopes of the Andes (1000-2500 m altitude) and the inhospitably cold subarctic puna (4000-4500 m).

The highland tubers oca, ulluco and mashua share many similarities with potatoes in terms of ecological requirements, cropping systems and uses (Table 1).

Their phenologies are also very much alike. Each cropping cycle starts with a sprouting tuber which is planted at the onset of the rainy season and ends with a senescent plant that, on underground stolons, has produced dormant tubers with the dual purpose of food and seed. Although clearly perennials, these crops show a determinate growth habit and true senescence, that is, aerial plant parts die after tuber bulking is completed, even if favourable growing conditions persist. Tuber formation in these species occurs only in days shorter than 13-14 hours. This, in combination with long crop duration (6-9 months), is a serious constraint to the cultivation at extra-tropical latitudes. The three tubers are moderately frost-resistant and occur with their wild relatives at high altitudes, often near the altitudinal limit of agriculture. Owing to their cold-tolerance, they represent one of the few cropping Table 1. Attributes of Andean root and tuber crops

–  –  –

options at high altitudes and complement a diet based on potatoes, barley, faba beans and chenopod grains. Because of their high starch content, the highland tubers are always cooked for consumption.

With regard to propagation mode, chemical composition and economic scope, the subtropical ARTC are a much more heterogeneous group (Table 1). In the vegetatively propagated achira, the edible part also serves as the propagule. By contrast, arracacha, yacon and mauka cannot be propagated from the edible root.

These plants develop very peculiar rootstocks with fleshy offshoots that serve as propagules. Propagation of ahipa, as mentioned above, is through sexual seed. High starch contents in some species - notably arracacha, achira and mauka - require cooking of the edible parts for better digestion and palatability On the other hand, the sweet-tasting yacon and ahipa, with their elevated oligo-saccharide contents, are eaten raw and function as ‘fruits’ in rural diets.

As a rule, plant development in these species is indeterminate to the extent to which nutrient supply, space, temperatures and photosynthetically active radiation permit continually renewed shoot growth. Crop duration as well as the matter accumulated by single roots (or rhizomes) are therefore much more variable and are heavily influenced by cropping practices. To realize the high yield potential, these species are mostly cultivated for one year.

The ecological requirements of subtropical ARTC are not well understood.

However, from the analysis of their present distribution and sporadic reports of cultivation at high latitudes, we can conclude that they are frost-sensitive and for the most part daylength-neutral with regard to the production of the underground organs. Although currently restricted to mid-elevations in tropical highlands, these species have potential for wider distribution and use than the high-altitude tubers.

Maca is a very peculiar root crop. The storage structure is partly made up from hypocotyl and taproot tissue. Maca is the only Cruciferae known to have been domesticated in the Americas. It is cultivated only in Peru. An extremely hardy crop, maca is grown in the puna, a montane steppe at 4000-4400 m altitude which is characterized by regular frosts and mean monthly maximum temperatures under 12°C during the growing season.

Circumstantial evidence suggests that, in general, ARTC are eminently nutrientefficient crops. For example, the tubers oca, ulluco and mashua are grown as the last crops before fallow and are generally not fertilized. Other ARTC thrive on residual nutrients, yet, under such conditions, they can yield well (Table 1). Some crops, notably achira, have extensive and deep root systems which effectively take up nutrients from deep soil layers.

Pests and diseases have been known to cause serious losses in oca (weevil) and arracacha production (fungi, nematodes, acari). However, as a rule of thumb, the production of ARTC does not appear to be constrained significantly by antagonistic organisms. Various viruses infecting ARTC have been described, but again, the available evidence suggests that their presence is ‘benign’ and host plants display few if any symptoms of viral pathogenesis.

8 Andean roots and tubers: Ahipa, arracacha, maca and yacon In rural communities and urban areas, ARTC account for only a minor fraction of caloric intake, but this alone would be a poor indicator of their role in diets.

Although often and mistakenly referred to as ‘staples’, ARTC add diversity to local cuisines, especially to the diets of the rural poor who take part only marginally in the market economy. They also provide significant amounts of minerals and other essential nutrients, such as vitamins, which are in short supply to poor people in the developing world.

Are ARTC underutilized? A first approach to answer this question would be to look at production figures. Unfortunately, official statistics are for the most part not available or are notoriously unreliable. However, by making a few assumptions on the proportion of rural populations and the degree of urban consumption, as well as from our knowledge of the distribution and presence of ARTC in markets, we can ‘guesstimate’ the number of people that frequently or occasionally use ARTC, either for direct consumption or for processing (Table 2). Although these figures represent an approximation only, they provide an idea of the scale of production.

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