Staple crops are plants grown for their parts which are used as staple food. A staple food is one that is regularly consumed in large quantities as to form the basis of a traditional diet and which serves as a major source of energy and nutrients.
Staple crops may be grouped into the starchy type and protein-rich type. The starchy type consists of the cereal crops, root and tuber crops, fruit crops and the palms. The pulses belong to the protein-rich group. Many traditional diets in developing countries consist of both starchy and legume staples to obtain a more nourishing food.
Botanically, the plant part that is consumed may be a seed, fruit, modified root, modified stem, or pith of the stem (as in sago palm). Many cereals, roots and tuber crops are staple crops but are also grown extensively for processing into industrial products such as vegetable oil and biofuel.
Although more than 50,000 plants in the world are edible, only a few hundred are consumed in significant amounts. Ninety percent of the world’s food energy intake comes from a mere 15 crops with rice, corn and wheat contributing two-thirds of this. These three are the staples of more than 4,000 million people, with rice being consumed by almost one-half of the world population.
List of Major Staple Crops
A. Cereal Crops
Barley (Hordeum vulgare)
Corn , maize, mais (Zea mays)
Millet- common millet (Panicum miliaceum), finger millet (Eleusine coracana), Foxtail millet (Setaria italica), pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum)
Oat (Avena sativa)
Rice, palay (Oryza sativa)
Rye (Secale cereale)
Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor)
Teff (Eragrostis tef)
Wheat- bread wheat (Triticum aestivum), durum wheat (Triticum turgidum)
B. Root and Tuber Crops
Arrowroot, araro (Maranta arundinacea)
Cassava, tapioca, manioc, kamoteng kahoy, balanghoy (Manihot esculenta)
Jerusalem artichoke, sunchoke, French potato, Canada potato, topinambour, lambchoke (Helianthus tuberosus)
Potato, white potato, irish potato, patatas (Solanum tuberosum)
Sweet potato, camote (Ipomoea batatas)
Taro, gabi, ordinary taro, cocoyam, dalo, talo, arum, dasheen, daun keladi, eddoe, gaui, tayoba (Colocasia esculenta)
Yam, greater yam, water yam, ubi (Dioscorea alata)
Yautia, tannia, karlang, palawan, bisol, Chinese taro, kong kong taro (Xanthosoma sagittifolium)
C. Fruit Crops
Banana, bananier, pisang, saging, nget pyo thee, kluai, chuôí (Musa spp.)
Breadfruit, rimas, kulo (Artocarpus altilis)
Plantain, cooking banana (Musa spp.)
Sago palm, sagu, landang (Metroxylon sagus)
Sweet palm, kaong (Arenga pinnata)
Chickpea (Cicer arietinum)
Common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris)
Lentil (Lens culinaris ssp. culinaris)
Pea (Pisum sativum)Soybean (Glycine max)
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Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). n.d. Staple foods: what do people eat? Retrieved October 16, 2010 from http://www.fao.org/docrep/u8480e/u8480e07.htm.
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Elfick, J. 2010. Taro Project. Retrieved October 16, 2010 from http://www.uq.edu.au/_School_Science_Lessons/TaroProj.html.
(Ben G. Bareja. 2010)