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Current knowledge on Amaranthus spp.: research avenues for improved nutritional value and yield in leafy amaranths in sub-Saharan Africa

Abstract

In the past 20 years, very little progress has been achieved in reducing food insecurity, child malnutrition and hunger in Africa. Under-nutrition and micronutrients deficiencies are widespread and affect mainly women and children. To address these problems, increased consumption of African leafy vegetables is promoted as sources of both micronutrients and bio-active compounds. Widely promoted African leafy vegetables include Amaranthus spp., a taxonomic group cultivated worldwide. Species of this genus are used as pseudo-cereals in Europe and America, and are mostly planted as vegetables in Africa. Amaranthus has been rediscovered as a promising food crop mainly due to its resistance to heat, drought, diseases and pests, and the high nutritional value of both seeds and leaves. Leaves are rich in proteins and micronutrients such as iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin C and vitamin A. All parts of the plant are used as medicine to heal many diseases in African communities. This paper focuses on leafy amaranths traditionally utilized on the continent. It briefly reviews the current knowledge on taxonomy, ecology, nutritional and nutraceutical value, production and cultivation systems, reproductive biology, genetic resources and breeding of amaranths. Species of interest include: A. blitum, A. caudatus, A. cruentus, A. dubius, A. hypochondriacus, A. spinosus, A. thunbergii, A. tricolor, and A. viridis. Research and development opportunities on nutritive and nutraceutical properties, production and commercialization, taxonomic evaluation and breeding perspectives were explored.

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Achigan-Dako, E.G., Sogbohossou, O.E.D. & Maundu, P. Current knowledge on Amaranthus spp.: research avenues for improved nutritional value and yield in leafy amaranths in sub-Saharan Africa. Euphytica 197, 303–317 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10681-014-1081-9

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Keywords

  • Amaranthus
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Nutrients
  • Nutraceutical properties
  • Genetic resources