Roots, tubers and banana crops include banana, plantain, cassava, potato, sweetpotato, yams, and other roots and tubers. They play a critical role in the global food system of the developing world, are among the top 10 most commonly consumed food staples and provide one of the cheapest sources of energy and vital nutrients.
These crops are an important source of income in poor, rural areas and can grow in marginal conditions with relatively few inputs and simple techniques. Roots, tubers and banana crops have many potential industrial uses (for example, starch, animal feed, processed foods) and are less vulnerable than grains to international price shocks. Their relatively short growing cycles and tolerance for abiotic stress means they can be planted between grain crops increasing system productivity and diversity.
Roots, tubers and banana crops share important characteristics. They are vegetatively-propagated, growing from cuttings or roots, so that pests and diseases are more easily transmitted and seed systems need careful attention. Marketed produce is perishable and relatively bulky, so they face similar post-harvest constraints.
What is the justification for a Research Program on Roots, Tubers, and Bananas?
In spite of their importance, the roots, tubers and banana crops have suffered from a lack of visibility and chronic underinvestment. The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB) will create a coalition of partners to create critical mass, improve efficiency and leverage additional resources. It will exploit the commonalities across crops. RTB’s goal is to tap the potential of these under-valued crops to create more diverse and robust food systems, reduce food shortages and improve the lives of producers and consumers in a gender equitable way.
RTB includes 7 linked and mutually reinforcing themes:
- Theme 1: Conserving and accessing genetic resources
- Theme 2: Accelerating the development, delivery, and adoption of varieties with stable yields, stress resistance, and high nutritional value
- Theme 3: Managing priority pests and diseases and beneficial microbial communities
- Theme 4: Promoting sustainable systems for clean planting material for farmers
- Theme 5: Developing tools for more productive, ecologically robust crops
- Theme 6: Enhancing post-harvest technologies and adding value in markets
- Theme 7: Enhancing impact through partnerships
As RTB gets under way, it is organizing stakeholder consultations to identify the best bet research opportunities likely to give the highest return in terms of poverty reduction and improved food security.
Four members of the CGIAR Consortium have initiated the collaboration:
- International Potato Center (CIP)
- Bioversity International
- International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)
- International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
RTB will engage a wide spectrum of research-for-development stakeholders and partners to achieve the expected impacts.