Dioscorea Basics

Not to be confused with the dicot sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) or yam bean (jicama or Pachyrxhizus ), Dioscorea, commonly known as yam, is a genus of herbaceous, climbing, twining, perennial monocots—one of the oldest amongst angiosperms. With over 600 species, it is generally characterized by its yam tubers (both below ground and aerial), net-veined leaves, and small flowers, although they can be non-flowering in addition to dioecious, monoecious, or hermaphroditic. Dioscorea is cultivated on 5 million hectares (12 million acres) of land, 94% of which is in West Africa (Tadele, 2009), and provides 200 calories to 300 million people daily. Dependent on species, Disocorea originated from either Asia or Africa, but now grows all over the world in predominantly tropical regions. Calorically dense, yam tubers are an essential source of nutrition in addition to having significant cultural roles, including use in traditional rites, religious festivals, and marital ceremonies. A cash crop, yams also play a significant role in providing livelihoods in developing countries; especially in the so-called Yam Belt, which consists of Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, and Togo. Yam also boast significant commercial potential for employ in industrial foods, nutraceuticals, and even medical applications (Eyitayo et al., 2010). Unfortunately, yam tubers face many challenges including pest and diseases, abiotic factors, and insufficient propagation methods.

For more information, we suggest the following links:


  1. Eyitayo OA, Anthony TO, Theresas I. 2010. Economics of Seed Yam Production Using Minisett Technique in Oyo State, Nigeria. F. Actions Sci. Reports 4. http://factsreports.revues.org/659.
  2. Tadele Z. 2009. Role of orphan crops in enhancing and diversifying food production in Africa. http://www.atdforum.org/journal/html/2009-34/1/.