Economic Botany

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 49–57 | Cite as

Why “Bitter” cassava? Productivity of “Bitter” and “Sweet” cassava in a Tukanoan Indian settlement in the Northwest Amazon

Research

Abstract

Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is a cyanide-containing root crop used by many indigenous groups in Amazonia. Despite the availability of low-cyanogenic potential (CNP) cassava, the Tukanoans of the Colombian Amazon region and many other indigenous groups in lowland Amazonia cultivate primarily high-CNP cassava as their staple crop. Based on the assumption that the Tukanoan preference for high-CNP cultivars is due, in part, to the ability of these cultivars to consistently produce higher yields, we tested the null hypothesis that low-CNP cassava has yields that are greater than or equal to the yields of high-CNP cultivars in Tukanoan gardens. To do so we compared the yields of low- and high-CNP cassava in 10 Tukanoan gardens and in one control garden. We reject the null hypothesis: high-CNP cultivars yielded more than low-CNP cultivars in both traditional Tukanoan Indian gardens and a control garden. Although there are several possible explanations for the differences in yields, the most plausible inference is that the high-CNP plants are more likely to be disease and/or insect resistant.

Key Words

Manihot esculenta manioc yuca cyanogenic glucosides secondary compounds swidden agriculture 

¿Por qué Elegir Yuca “Amarga”? Productividad de la Yuca “Amarga” y “Dulce” en un Asentamiento de los Indios Tukanos en el Noroeste Amazónico

Resumen

La yuca o mandioca (Manihot esculenta Crantz) es una raíz comestible que contiene cianuro, utilizada por numerosos grupos indígenas en la Amazonia. A pesar de que existe una variedad de yuca de bajo contenido en cianuro (CNP), los Tukanos de la región amazónica colombiana y muchos otros grupos indígenas en las tierras bajas del Amazonas cultivan principalmente la variedad de yuca con alto contenido en cianuro como alimento básico. Basándonos en la presunción de que la preferencia de los Tukanos por los cultivos de yuca de alto contenido en cianuro, se debe, en parte, a que esta variedad produce mayores rendimientos, intentamos comprobar la hipótesis de que la yuca de bajo contenido en cianuro logra rendimientos iguales o mayores que los de los cultivos de alto contenido en cianuro que realizan los Tukanos. Para ello, comparamos los rendimientos de la yuca de alto y de bajo contenido en cianuro en diez huertos de los Tukanos y en un huerto de control. Debemos descartar la hipótesis: los cultivos de alto contenido en cianuro rindieron más que los de bajo contenido, tanto en los huertos tradicionales de los indígenas como un el huerto de control. Aunque existen varias explicaciones posibles para esta diferencia en rendimiento, la más plausible es que las plantas con alto contenido de cianuro poseen mayor resistencia a los insectos y a las enfermedades.

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Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden Press 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ArchaeologyUniversity of CalgaryAlbertaCanada
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of ColoradoBoulder

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