Group 3 -Introduction

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Cocoyam (Xanthosoma sagittifolia) is a staple food crop native to tropical America. It is an important food staple in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world and is mainly cultivated by small-scale farmers. The crop is grown and marketed locally but also exported to markets in Europe and the United States. Cocoyam produces edible starch rich root tubers called cormels. These are eaten boiled, grilled, fried, or puréed. They are also a common ingredient in soups and stews. The young, unfurled leaves of cocoyam can be eaten as boiled leafy vegetables or used in soups and stews. Leaves may also be given to animals as fodder and a major source of feed to fish reared artificially in ponds. In addition to starch, it is also rich in proteins, fats and vitamins. A wide range of yields (4-15t/ha) of the crop have been reported depending on variety and management practices.

In Africa, the crop is more recognized in the West African countries of Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon, Gabon and Ghana where it is an important source of food and cash. In ESA, cocoyam is grown in many areas where rainfall is plenty, although it has not been considered an important crop in the research agenda. In ESA, There cocoyam grows haphazardly as volunteer plants in the home garden shades. Although it is a neglected crop, its potential as a food and commercial crop is clear with a lot of it sold in local markets. Markets have now been created in Europe and United States necessitating commercial production of the crop. Currently, cocoyam production cannot meet demand.

Although cocoyam is an important staple food crop in ESA, many tropical countries including Uganda, it has received low research attention it is still considered a famine food. In 1975, the National Academy of Sciences classified cocoyam as a neglected food crop but one with high economic potential. Unfortunately it is to date still an under-exploited and insufficiently studied crop. In ESA, the diversity of the crop is unknown, yet this information is a prerequisite for the promotion of the production of the crop. In this project, we will assemble and characterizing Ugandan cocoyam germplasm for phenotypic and agronomic characteristics and reaction to pests and diseases.