Selected crops – University of Copenhagen

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Selected crops

The underutilized crop selection process for LATINCROP was based on the following criteria: potential uses (food, market, medicine, industry, ecological), geographical distribution (the larger the distribution the better harvest security), consumption rate at the local and national level, and availability of information.

The current strengths of the underutilized species selected are:

  • Broad genetic variability
  • Traditional technology for production available
  • Diversity of processing and products
  • High nutritional value
  • Actual and potential demand from export markets
  • Tolerance to adverse, abiotic factors

Common name

Scientific name

Brief introduction


Chenopodium quinoa

Quinoa is native to the Andean highland of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. This crop has been eaten continuously for 7,000 years by people who live on the mountain plateaus and in the Andean valleys of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile. Quinoa is a highly nutritious staple food and remains an important food crop for the present population (Rojas et al., 2010). Lasting sustainability of quinoa farming systems is currently in question putting emphasis on the growing export market and the national quinoa consumption. At present, consumption rate in the local market is reduced. There is an increasing demand from the export market, but a lack of high quality seed production and value added products (Jacobsen et al., 2011)


Chenopodium pallidicaule

Cañahua is ground and used as flour. Cañahua is cultivated at higher altitudes than any other crops, up to 4400m. It is tolerant to frost, drought, strong winds and heavy rains. The present market is on-farm consumption, and local and regional markets.


Amaranthus spp.

Amaranth, an ancient crop originating in the Americas, can be used as a high-quality seed or as a leafy vegetable, and has potential as a forage crop. Amaranth was very important during the Aztec civilization in Mexico in the 1400's. Amaranth does not suffer from major diseases and is tolerant to drought and soil salinity (Jacobsen et al., 2012). There are many species of amaranth, but mainly three originating from Latin America are used as grain amaranth (Jacobsen & Mujica, 2003).


Lupinus mutabilis

Tarwi is a legume whose seed is used as food. The species is indigenous to Peru. The crop is also known as the Andean lupine with a high content of protein and oil, corresponding to soybean (40% protein, 20% oil) and high N-fixation rate (300kg/ha). Seeds contain alkaloids which must be removed, but sweet cultivars exist. The present market is on-farm consumption and local and regional markets.


Arracacia xanthorrhiza

Arracacha has edible roots that emerge from the stem. It is a good source of minerals and vitamins. The leaves are used in the same way as celery in raw or cooked salads. The crown of the root is used to feed dairy livestock, and stem and leaves can be used as animal feed. Arracacha is native to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and has been introduced successfully in Brazil.


Smallanthus sonchifolius

Yacon is a root crop with a high inulin content, which is tolerated by diabetics. The sweet roots are usually eaten raw after they have been exposed to the sun for several days. Yacon is native of Colombia, Ecuador and probably also Peru. It is grown in Peru, New Zealand and the USA. In the Andean Mountains it can be found at elevations up to 3300 m. It requires humidity in the first stages, but later it can tolerate periods of drought. Yacon tea made from leaves is a new product.


Tropaeolum tuberosum

Isaño or mashua is a tuber crop with dark markings and buds on the whole tuber surface. The tubers are eaten as vegetables and tolerate light frost. Mashua is probably native of areas around 3000 m in elevation in Peru and Ecuador. It is the highest yielding root and tuber crop, up to 70 t/ha.