Saturday, December 1, 2007

Root and Tuber Crops

Some of those become a major food source in relative isolate areas and are also of some considerable important in modern food processing industry.

Industrial and Domestic Use

A large number of root and tubers are grown in Indonesia – cassava sweet potato, taro, yarn and potato, all of which have numerous variety. Cassava is the major crop in the hilly areas of Java. Where consumption reach over 60 kilograms per capita per year. In eastern islands, especially in Irian Jaya, each potato, taro and yarn form the dietary staple. The starch laden roots of this crop are not the only valuable parts of these plants; cassava leaves are eaten as nutritious vegetable, while the leaves of sweet potato provide fodder for animals.

Origins of Major Roots and Tuber Crops

Cassava has its origins in the northern part of South America, while the sweet potato and potato came from the Andes Mountains. Cassava had been introduced into Indonesia by the late 18th century with potato arriving around the same time. Sweet potato, taro and other crops were already present when Dutch arrived in eastern Indonesia in 1618, but virtually nothing is known about their introduction to the Indonesian Archipelago.

Irian Jaya’s Sweet Potato

The sweet potato contributes about 80 per cent of the calorific intake in most highland societies of Irian Jaya. Daily consumption ranges from 1.5 to tree kilograms, depending on age, gender and local dietary habits. The important of these in local subsistence agriculture is reflected in the hundred of local cultivars. Botanists and geneticists consider the island of New Guinea as a secondary centre of diversity for these plants: although the crop does not originate from the area, the rugged terrain, together with human selection and propagation, has resulted in a high level of diversity.

The basic characteristics of its cultivation systems are its round cultivation and staggered harvests. The greeter share of the garden work is undertaken by women, and the propagation is carried out by cuttings taken from productive gardens. The compound are often owned collectively and operated for a number of crop cycles by kinship groups. As the crop can be harvested throughout the year, the garden also serve as a storage house. The tubers are consumed as human food and as animal feed.

The importance of sweet potato in Indonesia is surprising in many respect given the fact the it is American origin, and probably arrived in the Indonesian Archipelago only about 400 years ago. Its spread into the highlands of the island of New Guinea came even later. There it met with an indigenous agriculture relying mainly on bananas, taro, sugarcane and yams, with an agriculture history dating back at least 5,000 years. Despite of this, however, the sweet potato became extremely popular: the famous checkerboard gardens former by sophisticated drainage ditches and raised beds. Spotted from the first aero plane to cross the Baliem Valley in the 1940s were planted with sweet potatoes.

The widespread cultivation of the sweet potato is due two factors. Compared with taro, potato is the most important tuber crop, sweet potato is far more adaptable to the prevailing environment, especially to drought low temperature. In addition it is suitable as fodder for pigs, which is play an important part in the lives of these people. The adoption of sweet potato cultivation, therefore, enable highland societies to expand their settlement range further into attitudes above 2,000 meters and to raise more pigs. It also allowed people to rely more on horticulture and less on hunting. The expansion of sweet potato agriculture on steeper slopes and at higher attitudes continues to this day, although cropping and land use patterns are slowly starting to shift towards commercial crops such as vegetables and coffee.

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