Call edition 2012

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Distribution and Potential of Cherimoya (Annona Cherimola Mill.) and Highland Papayas (Vasconcellea SPP.) in Ecuador

Xavier SCHELDEMAN researcher laureate
xschelde@hotmail.com

°1971 Belgium
Bio-engineer, Universiteit Gent, Belgium, 1994

Distribution and Potential of Cherimoya (Annona Cherimola Mill.) and Highland Papayas (Vasconcellea SPP.) in Ecuador

The work is devoted to two indigenous fruit species in Ecuador, the cherimoya (Annona cherimola) and the highland papaya (Vasconcellea sp.). It focuses on the province of Loja in the south of the country, where these plants, though familiar to the local population, are little used and not so common in their diet. The fruits of these two groups naturally offer a great diversity of shape and nutritional characteristics, and are of potential value for alternative, medicinal and industrial applications.
The author sets himself the ambitious objective of developing the knowledge required to introduce and develop the cultivation of these species in Ecuador. His priorities are to meet the preferences of the local markets, to exploit the diversity in situ and to take into account alternative applications.
A project of this kind involves the use of different scientific disciplines – taxonomy, ecology, biochemistry and physiology – and its scope exceeds the duration of a doctoral thesis.
The researcher’s merit lies in his provision of reliable data about the different steps in the overall process, from knowledge about the fruits to cultivating them in commercial orchards. The work involved cataloguing the local people’s knowledge and use of these fruits, drawing up an inventory and description of the germ plasma in the province of Loja, selecting genotypes with potential for commercial fruit cultivation or papain extraction (in the case of Vasconcellea). Finally, it suggested possible sites for cultivation which respect the ecological requirements of the selected genotypes. The conditions for multiplication via sowing have also been looked into.
A considerable body of data has thus been collected, without recourse to sophisticated methods which would be of limited relevance in local conditions.
This integrated and structured knowledge represents a foundation on the basis of which specific issues can now be analysed.
Each of the aspects which is covered is treated rigorously, adding to scientific knowledge of the two plant groups and their applications.
Potential stumbling-blocks have been successfully surmounted, justifying the claim that this is an instance of authentic development work, suitable for autonomous use by local people. As such, it deserves recognition in the form of the Development Cooperation Prize.

report by Prof. Dr. M. Bodson, Laboratory of Horticultural Physiology, Faculté Universitaire des Sciences Agronomiques de Gembloux, Belgium