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Tropical Roots and Tubers: Production, Processing and Technology

This volume sets out to provide a complete resource for research, industry and development professionals, whose work is touched upon by tropical root and tuber crops. It is thus both necessary and timely as attention is focused on decline in diversity in human agriculture and nutrition driven by the advance of cereals. Roots and tubers are key providers of dietary starch and micronutrients.

In tropical, often less economically developed regions, where tubers are culturally integral, they can also be major macronutrient sources with up to a kilogram per head per day being consumed. 2.2 billion people in over 100 = countries worldwide eat tuber crops.

The most impressive feature of the volume is the range of crops and disciplines covered. Many similar works cover just a single crop, but this book functions as a rich information resource on cassava, sweet potato (Ipomoea), yamn (Dioscorea), elephant’s foot yam (Amorphophallus) and taro (Colocasia/Xanthosoma) in depth, with further information on species including Hausa or Chinese potato (Plectranthus), arrowroot (Maranta) and yam bean (Pachyrrhizus).

The early chapters of the book seek to introduce the main crop taxa via their biology, genetic and morphological diversity, chemistry and nutrition and modes of effective cultivation. While overall the quality of the text is relatively high, some of the key references are not cited here and statements are not always adequately supported by references.

Biodiversity information is also variable in quality. There is inconsistency between crops, perhaps inevitable in a work of this breadth and involving 36 authors, in the coverage of existing research, for example in the genetic diversity chapter. Overall, however, a critical mass of research outputs has been assembled and reviewed effectively.

Subsequent chapters cover fermented foods and beverages, post-harvest storage (a major disincentive to the cultivation of tropical tuber crops that perhaps deserved greater depth of coverage), manufacturing practices and a highly practical consideration of food safety issues.

The final four chapters, almost half of the volume in terms of numbers of pages, cover products derived from taro, cassava, sweet potato, yam and Amorphophallus (including A. konjac in addition to A. paeoniifolius). The first three tuber crops are dealt with particularly exhaustively, but all are well-constructed treatments of low- to high-tech industrial uses of tropical tubers.

Overall, the quality and information in figures is variable; those that are in colour and/or of higher resolution (e.g. chapter 2) are better than others with poorer resolution and no colour (e.g. Fig. 1.2, 9.1.1). Non-photographic figures are all clear and instructive. There are also some very long tables, but, in general, layout and editing are of a high quality.

At a cost of £150 or €180 from the publisher, the principal circulation of this volume is likely to be to libraries as opposed to individual consumers, although it would make a very valuable addition to book collections of those with a related academic interest.

Dr Paul Wilkin, Head, Natural Capital & Plant Health, Science Directorate, RBG, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 3AE, UK.

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