Ground Apple: Cultivation and Current Scenario in Nepal

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आइतवार, अशोज २५, २०७७

Ashoj 25, dhading- Normal apples grow in trees but ground apple is something different, they grow underground. Whenever we hear Ground Apple, we visualize it as a normal apple. Morphologically it resembles sweet potato and yams but it taste like an apple but is no similitude as an apple .Ground Apple which is gaining popularity is believed to have entered in Nepal almost a decade ago from Japan. Origin of this fruit is considered to be Peru and Bolivia in South America. It is considered as South Asian fruits as well as vegetable. It grows as a tuber-like Potato, yam etc. This fruit is also known as Yacon.
Ground Apple is perennial plant traditionally grown for sweet testing and tuberous root. Botanically it is Smallanthus sonchifolius syn Polymnia edulis, P. sonchifolia belonging to family Asteraceae and is close relatives of sunflower. The tuber of Ground apple is composed mostly of water and fructooligosaccharide.Fructooligosaccharide offers about half the sweetness of sugar without increasing blood sugar level.

Chemical composition of Yacon (%)
Water 83.63
carbohydrates 14.42
Protein 1.24
Ash 0.32
Fat 0.17
Crude fiber 0.12
Calorie 64-100 gm

Benefits of Ground Apple

It is the multi-purpose fruits. Its tubers can be used as salads while its leaf can be used as herbal tea on the other hand. It is also used for making juice, drinks, brandy and wine. Other benefits of Yacon are:

  • Due to low calorie content it is also known as “Weight loss program Potato”.
  • According to study, eating ground apple reduces the amount of glucose produced by the liver and significantly decreased fasting glucose levels.
  • The enzyme fructooligosaccharide offer about half the sweetness of sugar without increasing blood sugar level so its sugar is considered beneficial for the diabetic patients.
  • Yacon contains anti-inflammatory properties, which is very beneficial to reduce the pain and swelling.
  • Due to high amount of antioxidant found in Yacon, it is very beneficial for our overall health and also helps to prevent various types of cancer
  • The high amount of Vitamin C and Vitamin A present in Yacon is very beneficial for our immune system
  • Consumption of Yacon on a regular basis helps to reduce the stone formation in our liver and kidneys because it eliminates extra calcium from our body through urine; it is the main cause stone formation in the kidneys and livers.
  • Fatty liver is a common thing. Junk food, instant food, all contributes to fatty liver. Yacon can prevent cholesterol accumulation, and improve metabolism of our body.

Ground Apple/Yacon Cultivation

Climate and Soil Requirement:

The optimum temperature requirement for yacon cultivation is 18-20 degree centigrade.Yacon can tolerate dry condition and maximum wind. Yacon can be cultivated from 1500m to 3000m above sea level.  It generally requires slightly damp soil with good drainage and enough compost manure. Yacon is a high consumer of potassium and so it benefits from potassium-rich-fertilizers. Organic sources of potassium include seaweed, wood ash, and greensand. Nitrogen and phosphorous requirement is fairly low as too much nitrogen can reduce root growth.

Propagation:Yacon is propagated vegetative with 8-12cm long offsets taken from the underground and above ground rootstock, with few or no root attached. The rootstock can be divided into pieces easily, and these offsets are normally obtained during the harvest of the roots.

The nursery preparation of Yacon is done in January and February and is ready to transplant within Chaitra 15-Baishak15. The spacing of at least 0.5 meters between the plants is maintained because of large and vigorous nature. After two months, earthing up and weeding is required. The plant takes 6-7 months to reach maturity. After flowering top growth withers and dies back,then tubers are harvested. In 1 ropani, 600-800 plants can be planted .Minimum of 1,000-2,000 kg fruits and 50kg of leaves can be harvested from 1 ropani.

Current Scenario of Ground Apple in Nepal

Demand of ground apple is increasing in developed countries of the world and now it is gaining ground in developing countries too. Nepal has ample potential of its production. In Nepal, it was first cultivated as a trial in Kakani and Kathmandu valley a decade ago and then it was cultivated in Kavre, Godawari and Makwanpur. Ground Apple is gaining the popularity in almost many districts of Nepal. This fruits have high demand in market abroad. Although its main market is abroad, these days’ Nepalese consumers are also taking keen interest in it. Due to its multi-purpose and healthy benefits, many farmers from Nuwakot, Gorkha, Dolakha, Gulmi, Lamjung and many other districts are already attracted for its commercial production. Its demand nationally is quite high in eastern region of Nepal. Though its demand is high in some districts, people from many part of Nepal are still unaware about this fruit. Farmers from Udaypur district cultivated Yacon/Ground Apple for commercial purpose, but there are no buyers. The fruits got rotten in the field, some of them turned it into alcohol and some fed to their animal. The ground apple also has potential as a forage crop with high protein content. According to them they got training on growing ground apple from government as well as non-government organization, but they didn’t provide any help to find market. The reason behind lack of market is probably people are unknown about this fruits.

Last but not least Ground Apple emerging as a new fruit has potential for small crop growers. As commercial farming of this fruits could be started with the small capital and demand is also increasing in the national and international market, there is ample potential to expand its production and export from Nepal as well. It not just helps to stimulate economic growth but also avail in solving the unemployment problem by expanding its production, trade and consumption.