Andean roots and tubers: mashua.jpg (Tropaeolum sp.)


In the past few years we focus our studies on the genetic and physiological understanding of maca, Lepidium meyenii Walp. also known as   L. peruvianum Chacon sp. nov.) This species is little known Andean root in the Cruciferae family. This crop has multiple uses as food and medicine.

On the physiological side, these studies include range of adaptation, growth response at different photoperiods and soil pH, field observation at a low altitude habitat. On the cytogenetic side, it includes chromosome number and pairing in meiosis, DNA-based marker development for determination of genetic variability, wild species relationships and genome donors.

One of the important components in maca roots are glucosinolates.  Benzyl glucosinolate (tropaeolin) is the main glucosinolate found in this species.  When it is hydrolyzed by the enzyme myrosinase, this glucosinolate will release cancer protecting isothiocynanates. The cancer protection ability of these compounds was demonstrated years a ago in rats after treating them with cancer inducing chemicals.

Tuber Crops

  We collaboration with the University of Cusco and the International Potato Center, sponsored by the Mcknight Foundation we worked for three years on  project “Strengthening the On-farm Conservation and Food Security of Andean Tubers in the Fragile Ecosystem of the Southern Peruvian Highlands” . This project involved four major tuber crops, mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum), oca (Oxalis tuberosa, olluco (Ullucus tuberosus) and potatoes. We developed molecular markers mashua and olluco to determine their level of genetic variability The survey of mashua cultivars for glucosinolate content revealed that the tubers of this crop are loaded with these compounds and interestingly enough, it has as its main glucosinolates (tropaeolin) found in maca. Mashua is not only a rich source of carbohydrates and protein, but also of cancer-protecting compounds.

Early own, we had projects on potatoes, pioneering mapping of marker genes in relation to the centromeres and developing markers to study gene flow in the Andes and to study the genetic variability and folk classification system of Andean potatoes.


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