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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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Table 2. Estimated number of users and extra-Andean distribution of ARTC

–  –  –

As seen in Table 2, five of the nine crops are known and consumed by less than one million people in the Andes. In fact, these crops are unknown to the vast majority of the Andean people, and rarely reach the marketplace. The number of ahipa and mauka producers is perhaps no more than a few thousand at best. Moreover, these are concentrated in a handful of districts widely scattered in the Andes. Both crops are about to disappear and might well become extinct in a generation or two if present trends of rural migration and abandonment of these crops persist. The situation of achira, maca and yacon is less severe for different reasons. Achira is widely employed Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21. 9 and grown in backyard gardens as a source of ‘leaf wrappers’ (many people are actually unaware of the edibility of the rhizome). Achira is also increasingly exploited for starch in Asia. Yacon is becoming popular as an ‘exotic’ food outside the Andes, notably in Hokkaido, Japan. In recent years maca has seen a renaissance as a medicinal plant and is becoming an attractive raw material for the pharmaceutical industry.

Although sporadically consumed across the Andean highlands, especially in Native American communities, the use of oca and mashua tubers and their market presence are in decline (Table 2). There is also evidence for ongoing genetic erosion.

Although oca has spread to New Zealand and Mexico as an ‘exotic crop’, this seems to be commercially insignificant.

Arracacha and ulluco users, by contrast, number several tens of millions. Both crops occupy established market niches and their consumption appears to be stable, if not slightly rising, as in the case of arracacha, which is also grown in southern Brazil and to a minor extent in Central America and the Caribbean.

In conclusion, ARTC use is, with the exception of arracacha and ulluco, largely restricted to a minor (and frequently disadvantaged) sector of the Andean population. Is this deservedly so, because of some intrinsic limitations of these crops?

If ARTC are robust, nutrient-efficient and nutritious as stated above, why then is their use so marginal? Why have some never spread beyond the Andes, and those which did, only to a limited number of countries, although the ecological requirements to grow them successfully are met in many more?

A widely held belief suggests that European prejudice toward ‘Indian food’ on the part of ruling elites has hindered the appropriate use of ARTC. In another stereotype, it is often lamented that the introduction of Old World crops and their presumedly enforced production ‘wiped out’ ancient American cultigens. Both arguments seem to ignore the fact that the exchange of food crops in the wake of the Spanish conquest benefited both the Old and New Worlds. It enriched cropping systems and triggered an unprecedented culinary revolution in both hemispheres.

The Spanish embraced enthusiastically many Andean crops — in particular potatoes, fruits and vegetables — as novel sources of food. Today, their presence on any fruit or vegetable market in the Andes demonstrates that the same ‘Indian foods’ are as highly valued as in ancient days.

We cannot dismiss the role that cultural change and social factors have played in pushing some ARTC ‘to the edge’. Tasty and sophisticated meals can be prepared using them, and there are, for example, no obvious reasons for their total absence from the menus of fine restaurants in the Andes. In rural Ecuador, it is considered inelegant, if not offensive, to offer a meal of oca or ulluco to visitors, although such meals are enjoyed in the privacy of the family. In racially and socially divided mestizo societies, ARTC seem to symbolize ‘rural backwardness’, ‘Indianness’ or poor nutrition. While such attributes may do no good to the marketing of ARTC, it would be too simplistic to suggest they are the sole cause of neglect.

Rather, we must seek to understand what factors limit the production and use

of ARTC. Some production-related constraints have been briefly addressed above:

Andean roots and tubers: Ahipa, arracacha, maca and yacon long crop duration, narrow ecological requirements, etc. In the Andes, however, the robustness of ARTC and the ease of cultivation suggest that the lack of demand rather than production-related constraints are at the heart of problem. Post-harvest procedures need to be applied to reduce oxalates in oca and to leach out mucilage from ulluco. This undoubtedly discourages urban consumption. Shelf-life and market quality are often poor. Preliminary findings suggest that palatability may also constrain the use of certain species. Finally, simple ignorance about their existence and culinary uses limits demand.

The present book is the first of two volumes to deal in depth with the biology and genetic resources of ARTC. Apart from Leon’s classic (Leon 1964a), no comprehensive monograph of these crops has been attempted. Obviously, this more than anything bespeaks the scientific neglect of ARTC.

Of the four species selected for this volume, ahipa is perhaps the least known, and yet one that deserves more attention by researchers, as the authors convincingly argue. In multilocational trials, ahipa has been shown to yield heavily. Not only has this crop potential for raw consumption, but its crispy texture lends itself for use in stir-fried dishes where water chestnuts and bamboo sprouts are not available. For a crop of such limited geographical distribution (its cultivation is known from Bolivia and northern Argentina only), ahipa is astonishingly variable in terms of chemical composition, morphology and growth habit. Both determinate and indeterminate forms are described here for the first time. This monograph and a previous one on genus Pachyrhizus published in this series (Sørensen 1996) are the first to deal extensively with this crop.

Our chapter on arracacha shows that the importance of this crop extends well beyond the Andes, especially into Brazil. Since Hodge’s paper on the economic botany of arracacha in Colombia (Hodge 1954), most of the literature on this crop has appeared in Portuguese. Arracacha use also provides interesting examples for the potential of processing to make ARTC more attractive to urban consumption.

Novel data on arracacha’s breeding system and closely related wild species are also given here.

The chapter on maca adds new findings to a very limited body of international literature on this crop. Since Leon introduced an international audience to it (Leon 1964b), more than 30 years have passed in which maca has seen its fortunes change from precipitous decline (during the tumultuous 1980s in Peru) to an export earner advertised on the Internet. Type ‘Lepidium meyenii’ or ‘Andean Ginseng’ in any of the search machines and numerous advertisements will pop up to praise the “invigorating” effects of a drug made from the pounded dry root. Processing of maca into 500-mg gelatine capsules may add several hundred US dollars of value to a kilogram of dry root.

Another ‘fruit’ crop dealt with in this monograph is the yacon root, which, as the authors reveal, is increasingly grown in Brazil, Japan, Korea and New Zealand for sale in niche markets. Yacon products range from sirups and pickles to dried flakes and leaves. Interest in yacon has been stimulated by the discovery of dietary sugars Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21.

in the roots (mostly fructans) and putative medicinal compounds in the leaves.

Entrepreneurial farmers have seized upon market opportunities and demonstrated that product development, rather than lament over changing food patterns, is a way to give perspective to seemingly 'obsolete' crops. Unfortunately, this has happened mostly outside the Andes. Modern taxonomic concepts place yacon, hitherto known in the scientific literature as Polymnia sonchifolia, in genus Smallanthus, a nomenclatural change that is explained and justified in this section. The authors also present cytological and morphological evidence pointing to several wild Smallanthus species that could have been involved in the ancestry of the cultigen.

We hope this book will stimulate interest in, and experimentation with, ARTC.

Some of these crops may still have their apogee ahead.

References Hawkes, J.G. 1989. The domestication of roots and tubers in the American tropics. Pp.

481-503 in Foraging and Farming (D.R. Harris and B.C. Hillman, eds.). Unwin Hyman, London, UK.

Hodge, W.H. 1954. The edible arracacha. A little known root crop of the Andes. Econ.

Bot. 8:195-221.

Leon, J. 1964a. Plantas alimenticias andinas. Instituto Interamericano de Ciencias Agrícolas Zona Andina, Lima, pp. 50-56.

León, J. 1964b. The "maca" (Lepidium meyenii), a little known food plant of Peru. Econ.

Bot. 18:122-127.

Sørensen, M. 1996. Yam bean. Pachyrhizus DC. Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 2. Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, Gatersleben/International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy.

Ahipa (Pachyrhizusahipa (Wedd.) Parodi) Marten Sørensen Botanical Section Dept. of Botany, Dendrology and Forest Genetics Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University Copenhagen, Denmark Wolfgang J. Grüneberg Institute of Agronomy and Plant Breeding Faculty of Apiculture Georg August University Göttingen Göttingen, Germany

–  –  –

Bo Ørting Botanical Section Dept. of Botany, Dendrology and Forest Genetics Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University Copenhagen, Denmark Ahipa (Pachyrhizus ahipa (Wedd.) Parodi) Contents Introduction 1 Taxonomy

1.1 Generic

1.2 Nomenclature

1.3 The genus 1.3.1 The species: Pachyrhizus ahipa (Wedd.) Parodi 2 Description of P. ahipa

2.1 Botanical/morphological description of the species

2.2 Reproductive biology

2.3 History 3 Origin of the cultivated species and geographical distribution 4 Properties of the species

4.1 Biological nitrogen fixation

4.2 Chemical composition of the used parts

4.3 Nutritional

4.4 Industrial and other aspects 5 Uses 6 Genetic resources: range of diversity for major characteristics 7 Geographical distribution of important traits in the entire genepool 8 Importance of wild relatives as a source of diversity 9 Institutions holding germplasm collections

9.1 Availability of data on individual accessions

9.2 Gaps in existing collections

9.3 Conservation of the species (ex situ, in situ, on-farm)

9.4 Use of germplasm in research/breeding/crop improvement programmes 42 10 Breeding

10.1 Strategy for the traditional and more advanced production areas

10.2 Challenges for the traditional and more advanced production areas 46

10.3 Opportunities for modern biotechnology 11 Major and minor production areas 12 Ecology

12.1 Photothermal neutrality (daylength sensitivity)

12.2 Climatic and edaphic requirements

12.3 Impact on environment 13 Agronomy

13.1 Propagation of the crop

13.2 Crop husbandry

13.3 Field trials

13.4 Diseases and pests

13.5 Harvesting

13.6 Post-harvest handling

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

–  –  –

Introduction The Neotropical genus Pachyrhizus DC. (the yam beans) is one of the few legume genera with edible tuberous roots. The so-called Mexican yam bean (or jícama, = P. erosus (L.) Urban) is the only species cultivated on a larger scale for the domestic as well as the export market and which has been successfully introduced to various regions pantropically and with remarkable success in Southeast Asia. However, of the five species within the genus, two additional species are cultivated: P. ahipa (Wedd.) Parodi and P. tuberosus, both of South American origin.

At present P. ahipa is only recorded in cultivation practised by small communities situated in the subtropical east Andean valleys of Bolivia and northern Argentina at higher altitudes than the other two cultivated species (Ørting 1996b; Ørting et al.


The variation available within this little known species was until recently poorly recorded as only five accessions were available to morphological and physiological studies. Not until additional germplasm, representing Bolivian landraces of known origin, was included in the studies could a fair estimation of the specific variation be completed. It was previously accepted that all P. ahipa landraces were of a determinate growth habit, i.e. small erect bushes, with a short growth season of 6 to less than 5 months, but now landraces with indeterminate growth and a longer growth season have become known. The species is so far only known in cultivation and only genotypes producing a single, vertical tuberous root have been seen. The tuberous root is characterized by having a higher dry matter content (more than 10%) than recorded in P. erosus and the Ashipa cultivar group within the P. tuberosus complex. The tubers are, as a rule, consumed fresh almost like a fruit.

The Yam Bean Project - a multidisciplinary research project aimed at elucidating the agronomic potential of the genus and initiated in 1985 - has succeeded in the collecting and evaluation of the widest range of extant genotypes of both the wild and the cultivated species.

It is the hope of the authors that the great potential and attractiveness of this species as an alternative tuber crop for subtropical regions will be clearly demonstrated.

Promoting the conservation and use of underutilized and neglected crops. 21. 17 1 Taxonomy

1.1 Generic The first botanical references to the species, presently known as P. erosus, is a plant from Mexico described and depicted by Plukenet (1696) under the name ‘Phaseolus Nevisensis’. Linnaeus (1753) used the description by Plukenet as the basis for his Dolichos erosus.

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