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digestible, an important feature for infants, invalids, the elderly, and people with digestive problems.

These attributes could make achira one of the most interesting of all carbohydrate resources. Its unusual starch is a possible complement to other starches now used in foods and industry, and it has the potential to be produced in quantity. Australians have mechanized the planting, cultivation, harvesting, and milling of the crop, thereby demonstrating that achira need not be restricted to areas where labor costs are low.

This adaptable plant is known and grown in a number of places outside Latin America. On the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean, it has long been used and even exported. In Indonesia, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Australia, there has been small-scale commercial cultivation. In Madagascar, achira is common on the banks of rice paddies. It is also grown in Sri Lanka and Burma, and both Brazil and Hawaii5 have produced it as fodder for cattle and pigs. However, in none of these widely scattered locations is it being taken seriously as an economic crop.

With research, achira may broaden the base of agriculture. In many areas, it possibly could be incorporated into patches of marginal (especially damp) ground now little used for crop production.

PROSPECTS

The Andes. Given current knowledge, achira seems unlikely ever to become a major food of the region, but even so, there are several niches where it will remain a contributor to local diets and economies. It is a particularly good “safety net” for use when other crops fail, and it should be more widely planted for this purpose.

Future research may transform the region's use of this plant. It seems probable that current yields may be far surpassed. The application of fertilizer, alone, should boost production dramatically. In addition, the triploid forms (see later) may produce abundantly in now little-exploited locations.

If the unique starch proves to have widespread commercial utility, an export trade could result, to the benefit of the Andean region.

Other Developing Areas. Achira is unlikely to replace foods based on other starchy roots (such as cassava or common arrowroot)


5 In Hawaii it was formerly used in making “haupia,” a traditional dessert (made of coconut milk, starch, sugar, and gelatin) served particularly at luaus.


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