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  • Dioscorea is a genus of flowering plants in the family Dioscoreaceae, native throughout the tropical and warm temperate regions of the world.

  • They are tuberous herbaceous perennial lianas, growing to 2-12 m or more tall. The leaves are spirally arranged, mostly broad heart-shaped.

  • The flowers are individually inconspicuous, greenish-yellow, with six petals; they are mostly dioecious, with separate male and female plants, though a few species are monoecious, with male and female flowers on the same plant.

  • Yam is the common name for some species in the genus Dioscorea.


  • The yam-based intercrop is generally cultivated at the start of the crop rotation following a variable number of seasons in fallow in order to assure maximum potential for yam development and yield. Stakes are used for plant support and development.
  • Yam is harvested twice during its growth cycle. The first harvest begins 6 to 10 months after planting (September-December). It is a non-destructive harvest where the mounds remain intact.


  • Wild yam has been used for menstrual cramps and discomfort, rheumatoid arthritis, stomach cramps and pain from gallstones.
  • Dioscorea composita and D. floribunda are good sources of diosgenin. Tubers of Diosgenin occurs in glycoside form and it is used as a starting material for synthesis of cortisone and other corticosteroid drugs.


  • The tropical yam (Dioscorea alata) should not be confused with sweet potato, which is sometimes called ‘yam’ in the United States. Its consumption by various ethnic groups (African, Caribbean, Latin American and Asian) has helped extend its trade to the major industrialized countries.
  • Yams are exported to the US on a year-round basis.
  • Costa Rica claims the majority of the US market for yams. Jamaica and Ghana are the other major suppliers of yams to the United States.
  • Yam prices vary sharply by variety.

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