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because it is easier and less labor intensive to grow, and because its tubers are traditionally reserved for children and women. In the higher, colder altitudes, mashua functions like cassava in the tropical lowlands: a food that can be stored in the ground, harvested when needed, and is almost unaffected by poor management.


Andean Region. In the Andes, mashua is associated with poverty. It is shunned by the upper classes because of its Indian origin and because it is eaten by poor country folk. It is disappearing rapidly and in a few years most people will not remember it.

Yet mashua is a vital, although still underrated, part of the Andean agricultural cycle. So little is known about it that its potential is almost certainly unrealized at present. It is a productive and robust plant, and its tubers are visually appealing. It could be selected for greater nutritional quality and palatability. It could also play an important part in pest control in intercropping situations because it suffers from almost no pest, is resistant to the Andean weevil that attacks potatoes and other root crops, and climbs over weeds and smothers them.

Although high yielding and particularly high in vitamin C, mashua is not as palatable as other tubers, and where people have access to rice, noodles, and sugar, it tends to be abandoned more readily than other traditional crops.

Recently, it has been found that mashua in the Andes carries virus infections that are probably extremely debilitating to the plants. Methods have now been developed to produce virus-free stocks. These healthy plants grow much more vigorously, and they represent a way for rapidly improving mashua throughout the Andean region.4

Other Developing Areas. Mashua will probably never be widely grown outside the Andes, but it is worth trying in other tropical highland regions (for example, the Himalayas). Its pest and pathogen resistance alone may make it valuable. It is likely to be productive in areas with moderate temperatures and long growing seasons. Only virus-free germplasm should be introduced.

Industrialized Regions. Mashua, along with more common nasturtiums, is grown as a flowering ornamental in Britain and, though

4 Information from A.A. Brunt. A research team led by R. Estrada at the University of San Marcos Laboratories in Lima, Peru, is producing disease-free plants for growing by Andean farmers.

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