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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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comm.) and comparatively small roots of 5-15 cm length and a mean weight of 100 g as determined by Czyhrinciw (1952) in the market of Caracas. Yields are between 5 and 10 t/ha after a typical crop duration of 14 months (Reyes 1970). The high perishability of arracacha has prompted research by Venezuelan scientists into storage behaviour and storage diseases (Czyhrinciw and Jaffé 1951; Czyhrinciw 1952, 1969; Revetti 1967; Camino and Díaz 1972; Díaz and Camino 1976).

2.1.2 Colombia At the time of Bukasov’s explorations in Colombia (1925-26), 20 000 ha, or the equivalent of 75% of the total arracacha area in the country, were grown in Cundinamarca (Bukasov 1930). Bukasov speaks of arracacha as the favourite tuber in this department, taking up 20% of total arable land (versus potato with 10%!). He reports significant areas also from Boyacá Santander, Norte de Santander and Tolima, but limited cultivation in the rest of the country. In 1954, when Hodge Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21. 83 published his account of arracacha use in Colombia (Hodge 1954), the most significant arracacha area was in Antioquia.

In 1991, Colombia had a total of 12 000 ha, of which 6000-8000 ha were grown in the department of Tolima, with 4000-5000 ha in the municipality of Cajamarca.

The better part of the Tolima production goes to the three major Colombian cities:

Bogota, Medellín and Cali. Other arracacha-producing departments are Nariño, Cundinamarca and Boyacá, and, to a minor extent, Antioquia. National yield averages about 12 t/ha; thus, national production of arracacha in 1991 would have been around 144 000 t (Mr J.J. Rivera, 1996, pers. comm.). Thompson (1980) reported marketed production at 123 000 t in 1977; hence arracacha consumption appears stable, if not slowly growing, over the last two decades.

Surveys of consumers stratified by income and conducted by Ríos (1985) in Manizales, Caldas Department showed that annual per capita consumption of arracacha ranged between 8 and 22 kg. The very poor and the wealthy share low consumption levels, the former probably because of lack of purchasing power for a relatively expensive root vegetable, the latter because of high dietary diversification and increased consumption of animal products.

Disease problems in Tolima and falling prices for coffee in recent years have stimulated interest in arracacha. Typically, arracacha is intercropped with maize, which is harvested after 150 days. According to altitude, arracacha can be harvested 10-14 months after planting. There is a wide range of producers, with smallholders at one extreme and large absentee landowners at the other (Mr J.J. Rivera, 1996, pers.


Although yellow-rooted clones are preferred in Colombia, especially in Bogota (Higuita 1969; Hermann 1994; Mr J.J. Rivera, 1996, pers. comm.), local preference for white roots in Medellín has been reported (Higuita 1969). This city is supplied with the variety Salamineña Blanca, which reportedly accounts for most of the production of the La Ceja valley in Antioquia (Higuita 1968). Salamineña Blanca matures in 10 months.

Higuita (1969, 1970) recognizes nine morphologically distinct varieties in Colombia, with yellow and white clones being the most common. On the basis of linguistic and morphological data, Bristol (1988) claims the existence of at least 18 distinct clones in the Sibundoy valley near Ecuador, known for its Kamsá-speaking population. Little is known about the arracacha in Sibundoy and since more than 30 years have passed since Bristol’s explorations, it is urgent that collecting what remains of presumably unique genotypes be done.

2.1.3 Ecuador As in Colombia and Venezuela, arracacha in Ecuador is a root vegetable known and consumed by the vast majority of the population and found regularly on supermarket shelves. According to a consumer survey conducted in the three major cities – Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca – 91, 97 and 68%, respectively, of the households interviewed reported consumption of arracacha (Espinosa et al. 1995). It is the fourth Arracacha (Arracacia xanthorrhiza Bancroft) most popular root crop after potatoes (Solanum spp.), melloco (Ullucus tuberosus) and cassava. The same survey found no evidence for a continuous decline in arracacha consumption as stated by Castillo (1984). Annual per capita consumption was found to be 2.7 kg in Cuenca, 8.1 kg in Quito, and the highest in Guayaquil, with 8.9 kg.

The latter finding is noteworthy because Guayaquil is a tropical lowland city where the perishability of arracacha would seem to limit its use. If we assume that in this nation of about 12 million people the mean annual per capita consumption of arracacha is at least 2 kg, and yield averages 10-20 t/ha, then the total arracacha area in Ecuador would be at least somewhere between 1200 and 2400 ha. This is in striking contrast to the 150 ha accounted for in 1993 by official statistics of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Although the arracacha crop is widely distributed across the Sierra, commercial exploitation is concentrated in San Jose (northeast of Quito), Baños (Tungurahua), Imbabura and Loja. San Jose de Minas is located on the western slope of the Andes.

Its humid Pacific climate at 2000 m altitude with rainfall throughout the year makes it one of the most productive arracacha areas, with yields well above 30 t/ha. The average altitude for arracacha cultivation in Ecuador is 2500 m, but some germplasm accessions have been collected at as low as 1450 m and up to 3200 m (Hermann 1988).

A range of cultivars has been collected in Ecuador and several root shapes and pigmentations, from white over yellow to orange, have been observed (Mazón 1993);

however, 70% of the accessions of the national collection have white-fleshed roots.

Only white roots are available in urban markets throughout Ecuador (Espinosa et al. 1995). Another peculiarity in Ecuador is that the name arracacha, widely used for the crop in the Andes and beyond, will not be understood. Ecuadoreans eat zanahoria blanca, Spanish for ‘white carrot’. In Loja, the crop is simply called zanaharia, with the real carrot (Daucus carota) receiving the name zanahoria extranjera (the foreign carrot) (Mrs Joy Horton de Hofmann, 1996, pers. comm.). The use of the term zanahoria apparently extends into Nariño, southern Colombia (Jaramillo 1952), and Cajamarca, northern Peru (Arbizu and Robles 1986).

Five wild Arracacia species occur in Ecuador (A. andina, A. elata, A. equatorialis, A. moschata, A. xanthorrhiza; see Section 6.2.1), along with the closely related Neonelsonia acuminata. Rural people invariably refer to these plants as sacha zanahoria (sacha = quechua for ‘wild’) or ‘wild carrots’ and know their habitats, which is of great help to plant collectors. There is a widespread belief across the Sierra that these plants have medicinal qualities for a variety of uses, post partum applications being the most common.

2.1.4 Peru A production manager of Nestlé-Brazil, a company known for its processed arracacha products in Brazil and Colombia, had lived for several years in Lima, Peru, where the company has a subsidiary. He had traveled widely in Peru, but returned to his native country thinking of arracacha as a genuinely Brazilian vegetable. He Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21. 85 had not seen it in Peru. Nothing could better illustrate the paradoxical situation of arracacha in Peru, a country so rich in genetic resources of this and other Andean crops. One can live a lifetime in Peru and yet never come across arracacha. It is used only sporadically in Lima (where roughly half of the national population lives); as a matter of fact, most limeños are not aware of it. Restaurants do not offer it and national cookbooks ignore it. Even in highland towns, there appears to be social prejudice against arracacha and other tuberous foods associated with the (economically and socially depressed) Indians (Fano and Benavides 1992).

Some authors suggest that some Nazca pottery designs, formerly attributed to cassava, may in fact represent arracacha (reviewed in Towle 1961, pp. 74-75). Vivid accounts of the Spanish chroniclers refer to arracacha as a food plant widely used in Peru in the 16th century (Patiño 1964). Today, arracacha continues to have some commercial scope in Cajamarca, Cusco and other highland cities and towns, but it has more importance for the subsistence and diet diversification of poor rural people.

According to Seminario (1995), Peru has about 2000-3000 ha of arracacha, of which 60-80% corresponds to the department of Cajamarca. The second most important department is Amazonas, also in the north of the country (Table 1).

Table 1. Altitudinal range of arracacha cultivation in Peru according to department (arranged from north to south)

–  –  –

Source: Hermann, field notes.

Traditionally, arracacha has been cultivated in Peru in three different agroecologies with widely varying environmental conditions: the Ceja de Selva, the humid and rainy eastern slope of the Andean Cordillera toward the Amazon between 1500 to 2200 m altitude (Amazonas, Cusco, Huánuco, La Libertad, San Martin); the dry inter-Andean valleys between 2500 and 3200 m (Ancash, upper Apurímac and Arracacha (Arrcacia xanthorrhiza Bancroft) Cajamarca); and the coastal desert oases of Moquegua, Piura and Tacna at 1000m (see Table 1 for details on the altitudinal range of arracacha cultivation in Peru).

On a visit to Tacna in 1993, a town known in the past for its arracacha production, I found only a few arracachas in the market from Moquegua, and none from Tacna.

Farmers offered these explanations for their abandoning the crop: lack of planting material, lack of market demand and a common belief among Aymará and Quechua people that the crop became jealous and lazy once the Taceños had sent planting materials to the people of Moquegua. Only after an extensive search could one farmer be found who grows the plant for his own consumption (Don Uldarico Velasquez Rejas, Calana, Tacna).

The city of Cusco receives arracacha from Quillabamba. In the nearby Sacred Valley, arracacha has not had any importance in the recent past (Gade 1975). Peru has numerous cultivars with some variation in pigmentation and root shape, but yellow-fleshed clones are preferred over white material on urban markets (Meza 1995). Farmers often also grow a purplish variety that is not commercial.

2.1.5 Bolivia Like Peru, Bolivia produces little commercial arracacha. This seems to have been so at the time of Vavilov, who wrote in the 1930s: "... Arracacha... rare in Peru and Bolivia; a staple crop on the Bogota Plateau” (Vavilov 1992). According to an authority on Bolivian economic botany, the late Martin Cárdenas, arracacha has been grown traditionally in the Yungas of La Paz (Cárdenas 1969), in the provinces of Camacho and Larecaja, where I have seen it in the early 1990s. Lacache, as the crop is called in the Aymará language, is offered in the markets of La Paz and Cochabamba, the latter city being supplied from the Chapare, also known for its coca leaf production.

2.1.6 Chile Latcham (1936) reports the use of arracacha in the extreme north of Chile. This was confirmed during a 1993 collaborative germplasm-collecting mission conducted by Professor Andres Contreras from the University of Valdivia and me. However, the crop is so marginal that many inhabitants of this region are not aware of it at all. It is safe to say that arracacha is on the verge of becoming extinct in this country. The crop was found in three villages: Nama (37 km northeast of Camiña, Iquique Province, 19°ll’ S, 69°24’ W, 2900 m altitude), Socoroma (Parinacota Province, 18°16’ S, 69°36’ W, 3050 m altitude), and Codpa (Arica Province, l8°50’ S, 69°44’ W, 2200 m altitude). All three localities are remote highland oases of the Atacama desert, with aging populations of no more than a few hundred people. Interestingly, the crop is called by its Aymará name lacache, evidence of cultural ties of the Atacama region with the Bolivian Altiplano. Codpa, for example, is known for its subtropical and temperate fruit production, which was traditionally bartered for potatoes and dry meat from Bolivia. The arracacha clones seen in Chile are white-fleshed and, in the Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21.

case of Nama, were said to be remnants from the ‘old times’ when this part of Chile still belonged to Peru (until 1879).

Arracacha has not been reported from neighbouring Argentina, nor have I seen the plant during explorations in 1992 in Jujuy and Salta, the two northernmost provinces where most of the other Andean roots and tubers are still cultivated.

2.2. Brazil Zanin and Casali (1984a) present circumstantial evidence for the introduction of arracacha to Brazil early in this century. The crop must have been spread quickly since it was widely consumed as early as in the 1920s in rural areas of Minas Gerais, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (Hermann, unpublished field notes). Today, arracacha is mostly grown in the uplands of southern and southeastern Brazil, particularly in the Serra do Mar (Paraná, São Paulo, ca. 26° S), in the Serra de Mantiqueira (Minas Gerais, 22-23° S, 1000-1800 m altitude), in the Serra de Espinhaço (Minas Gerais, 16° S, under 1000 m), and the Planalto Central (Minas Gerais, Goiás, Tocantins, 15-18° S, 800-1000m). According to an extensive survey by Santos (1993), the four foremost arracacha-producing states in 1993 were Minas Gerais (3500 ha), Paraná (2800 ha), Santa Catarina (850 ha) and Espírito Santo (660 ha). The area is expanding in Espírito Santo and Minas Gerais and total national area in 1996 is estimated to exceed 12 000 ha. Moreover, the area under arracacha shows high growth rates in Goiás and Tocantins, states to which arracacha culture was introduced a few years ago (Dr F.F. Santos, 1996, pers. comm.). In São Paulo, where arracacha was in the 1960s a source of “great wealth” (Normanha and Silva 1963) and grown to a larger extent than in any other federal state, arracacha production has been reduced to some 200 ha in the 1992/93 growing season (Monteiro et al.

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