Tuberous legumes - back from the brink
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CTA. 1994. Tuberous legumes - back from the brink . Spore 53. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/49476
First International Symposium on Tuberous Legumes was held in Guadeloupe from 21 to 24 April 1992
It is rare for established food plants to be at risk from extinction, but that is the situation facing a group of plants which have a range of valuable characteristics. They are the yam beans (Pachyrhizus spp) and other tuber-forming legumes including Apios (Indian potato), Psophocarpus (winged bean) and Sphenostylis (African yam bean). All these species are natives of Latin America but despite their contribution to regional diets historically, changes in patterns of food production and consumption in recent years, and pressures on natural vegetation by expansion of introduced crops, overgrazing and urban industrial expansion, genetic resources are endangered. This group of plants offers a source of nutrition, dietary variety and nitrogen-fixing and green manuring capability. Some also contain compounds within their leaves, stems, ripe pods and seeds that are toxic to humans but have potentially useful insecticidal properties. In Central America yam beans are eaten raw, the peeled roots sprinkled with salt and lemon juice. Roots can also be boiled, retaining their crunchy texture, or fried. The leaves can be used a green manure. Yields for P. erosus have been reported as reaching 80 tonnes per hectare in Mexico, Indonesia and the Philippines and it is possible that yields could be increased further through hybrid vigour. Recognizing the urgent need to implement conservation measures, the First International Symposium on Tuberous Legumes was held in Guadeloupe from 21 to 24 April 1992. CTA sponsored the Symposium together with the Centre INRA des Antilles et de la Guyane, the EC and the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Denmark. Participants came from Benin, Kenya, Senegal, Tonga and Trinidad as well as venue hosts Guadeloupe and others from the EC, Latin America, Thailand and the US. The proceedings of the seminar have now been published. They make it clear that these tuberous legumes offer several opportunities as vegetables, as sources of chemicals, as food for cattle and as a means for soil protection and improvement. To ensure conservation of these potentially very valuable plants participants recommended that a network be formed to provide interested researchers with an opportunity to collaborate, that a tuberous legume germplasm collection be established and that the network should coordinate the collection as part of its activities. The importance of the tuber legumes for dryland areas and other marginal habitats was stressed and it was recommended that research should continue.