Where ARTCs Grow

The Andean region is one of the most important centers of crop origin in the world. It is a Vavilov center of diversity – one of the regions of the world first indicated by Dr. Nikolai Vavilov to be an original center for the domestication of plants – and contains a high diversity of domesticated crops and their wild relatives.

The main nine Andean root and tuber crops (ARTCs) are spread throughout South America from southeastern Venezuela to northwest Argentina, with the greatest diversity concentrated in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador.

These crops still remain largely unknown outside of the Andean region, but they are of great economic and nutritional importance to Andean subsistence farmers who have cultivated them for generations, employing local knowledge to develop an integrated network of complementary agricultural systems to secure food supply, and using natural selection to fit each crop to a range of elevations and conditions.

ARTCs are found at altitudes ranging from 1,000 to 4,500 meters above sea level, and grow in a variety of ecosystems: in cool temperate highlands, in the sub-tropical inter-Andean valleys, on both slopes of the Andes, and as far up as the inhospitable sub-Arctic puna.

Adapted to harsh conditions over centuries, ARTCs possess an extraordinary ability to withstand disease and environmental stresses. They grow well with low inputs; for example farmers do not have to spend scant resources on expensive chemical fertilizers.

Ecosystems Where Andean Root and Tuber Crops are Found

Cool temperate (2,500 – 4,000m altitude)

Common name Botanical name
Oca Oxalis tuberosa
Ulluco Ullucus tuberosus
Mashua Tropaeolum tuberosum

Sub tropical (1,000 – 2,500m altitude)

Arracacha Arracacia xanthorriza
Yacon Smallanthus sonchifolius
Achira Canna edulis
Mauka Mirabilis expansa
Ahipa Pachyrhizus ahipa

Puna or cold steppe (4,000 – 4,500m altitude)

Maca Lepidium meyenii