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The Role of Biodiversity in Food Security and Nutrition: A Potato Cultivar Case Study

DOI: 10.4236/fns.2016.75039, PP. 371-382

Keywords: Potatoes, Solanum tuberosum, Nutrient Content, Biodiversity, Sub-Saharan, Food and Nutrition Security

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Biodiversity is considered a critical measure of the agricultural health of the world. Not only does increased biodiversity contribute to nutrient production and consumption, but it acts as a safeguard against food shortages due to pests and diseases by spreading the risk. Biodiversity can improve dietary diversity in such a way to ultimately contribute to improved food and nutrition security. As a result biodiversity is often highlighted in global discussions related to food and nutrition security. Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.) are highly biodiverse food crops, with more than 4000 different cultivars grown globally. The crop is sometimes considered as part of the vegetable component of food baskets, but it is mainly added to meals as a starch because potatoes have a high starch content and are thus high in energy. However, significant differences in the nutritional content (including micronutrient composition) of different potato cultivars have been reported in many countries. It is therefore proposed that specific cultivars could potentially contribute more to critical nutrients required in the diet of countries at risk of malnutrition. The nutritional profile (macronutrients and minerals) of 11 potato cultivars cultivated in sub-Saharan Africa was determined and the contribution which these different potatoes could make to the diet, and consequently to food and nutrition security, is discussed. The results showed that significant differences are found in the nutritional content between the different cultivars. Significant differences (p < 0.001) were found in macronutrients such as protein and fat as well as micronutrients such as copper, phosphorus and potassium. These results indicate the potentially beneficial role which a biodiverse range of crops such as potatoes, could play in the food and nutrition security of developing countries.


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