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Focus on... Neglected and underutilised species

Variety is said to be the spice of life and to make our lives more interesting. And yet, worldwide, a significant proportion of the global treasure chest of plant biodiversity is disappearing; FAO reports that approximately 75 per cent of the Earth's plant genetic resources are already extinct. By 2050, another third of plant species is expected to disappear. These undervalued wild and cultivated species hold the keys to our future with genes that provide resilience to changing climatic conditions and greater nutritional characteristics than our key staples (maize, rice, wheat). And yet a greater research and development focus on neglected and underutilised species (NUS), also known as orphan crops, would help to sustain smallholder farmers and provide improved livelihoods, income and health for their families.

At the 3rd International Conference on NUS held in Accra, Ghana in September 2013, the role of NUS in resilient food production systems was a key theme along with the nutritional and health value of local crops. In this edition, we highlight the nutritional value of traditional crops such as minor millets and quinoa, as well as the niche marketing opportunities that are currently being developed, the role of conservation at international and community level, and the farmers in Bolivia, India and Nepal who are using NUS to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Several projects featured in this section are being supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Making it with millets

Making it with millets

Minor millets are a nutritious, versatile crop grown for food and fodder. But traditionally yields have been low and processing is laborious. However, with support from international and national partners, cultivation of millet has improved, processing made easier and millet is once more becoming a popular staple as well as a niche branded product.

Date published: November 2013

Agricultural biodiversity enhances capacity to adapt to climate change

Agricultural biodiversity enhances capacity to adapt to climate change

A survey of almost 2,400 smallholder farmers across Bolivia, India and Nepal has revealed the extent to which they rely on agricultural biodiversity to mitigate the effects of climate change. Smallholder farmers plant new crops and varieties which are more resistant to changing conditions and adapt their farming practices as a coping mechanism to build resilience.

Date published: November 2013

Quinoa: a promising future for a versatile crop

Quinoa: a promising future for a versatile crop

With more protein than rice or maize, quinoa - an Andean seed crop deemed sacred by the Incas - has gained an international reputation in health food shops and restaurants. To harness the full potential of quinoa to improve income generation, food security and nutrition - and to expand production in a reliable and sustainable manner - a holistic and innovative value chain framework in Bolivia and Peru has been developed and tested, with input from local businesses, policymakers, exporters, farmers and researchers.

Date published: November 2013

Seeking an alliance between farmers and genebanks

Seeking an alliance between farmers and genebanks

To improve the supply, exchange and conservation of traditional and improved planting material, an initiative has been working with farmers in Bolivia and Malaysia to build collaboration and promote exchange of knowledge and management practices between communities and local genebanks.

Date published: November 2013

Storage solutions for indigenous vegetable seeds

Storage solutions for indigenous vegetable seeds

Genebank storage of indigenous vegetable germplasm is a vital part of conservation and breeding programmes, but can result in poor germination rates in stored seeds. AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center is investigating optimum temperature and seed moisture levels for long-term seed storage, plus simple seed priming techniques for use by themselves and farmers.

Date published: November 2013

 

 

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