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From landraces to modern cultivars: field observations on taro Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott in sub-Saharan Africa

ABSTRACT

              Until recently, taro Colocasia esculenta (L.) Schott, was considered a neglected food crop due to its low palatability and inferior value compared to other root crops such as cassava, potatoes and yams. Under the impulse of new studies on plant dispersal, and in light of the severe threats posed by pests to its conservation status, this crop has finally received more attention. However, there is still insufficient knowledge on specific cultivars and their culinary and medicinal uses, especially in Africa. We studied the agrodiversity of taro cultivars in Nigeria, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Tanzania. Here, we present ethnobotanical, morphological and linguistic data of 20 taro cultivars, as well as specific notes on abandoned landraces. These traditional varieties represent valuable genetic resources and can be instrumental in protecting taro from the genetic erosion caused by preference for yautia, and diseases such as the leaf blight. With this work, we call for renewed efforts to conserve this species and its landraces.