Special Issue "Underutilized Plant Species: Leveraging Food and Nutritional Security, and Income Generation"


A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2013)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Jacqueline Hughes

AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center, P.O. Box 42, Shanhua, Tainan 74199, Taiwan
Interests: vegetables; traditional crops; crop protection; diet diversification; postharvest; quarantine; nutrition

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The world is precariously dependent on a limited number of food crop species despite its wealth of traditional, locally-adapted underutilized species.  In many cases, the underutilised species have a much higher nutrient content than globally known species or varieties, even though they may not be fully suited to conventional production systems.  With climate uncertainty, there is an urgent need to diversify our food base to a wider range of food crop species for greater system resilience.  Promoting the use of underutilized species (vegetables, fruit, starchy crops and condiments) needs to be achieved by highlighting their importance in their current production areas as well as exploiting further opportunities to extend their production and consumption.  Promotion of these species, and the development of their value chains, must be based on rigorous scientific methods which will enable us to remove the stigma of ‘food for the poor’ which often hinders their popularization and new demand creation.  More research for development including conservation, selection, breeding, production, nutrition studies, postharvest value-addition and advocating consumption as part of a balanced diet will facilitate some of these underutilized species transitioning into crops that can better support development and the quality of life.

Dr. Jacqueline Hughes
Guest Editor


Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed Open Access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs).


  • underutilized species
  • sustainability
  • biodiversity
  • germplasm conservation
  • nutrition
  • poverty
  • climate change

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Displaying article 1-6
p. 1283-1312
by , , , ,  and
Sustainability 2014, 6(3), 1283-1312; doi:10.3390/su6031283
Received: 28 November 2013 / Revised: 20 February 2014 / Accepted: 20 February 2014 / Published: 12 March 2014
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p. 980-1017
by  and
Sustainability 2014, 6(2), 980-1017; doi:10.3390/su6020980
Received: 2 December 2013 / Revised: 7 February 2014 / Accepted: 7 February 2014 / Published: 21 February 2014
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p. 741-757
by , ,  and
Sustainability 2014, 6(2), 741-757; doi:10.3390/su6020741
Received: 11 November 2013 / Revised: 30 January 2014 / Accepted: 6 February 2014 / Published: 10 February 2014
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p. 615-630
Sustainability 2014, 6(2), 615-630; doi:10.3390/su6020615
Received: 13 December 2013 / Revised: 20 January 2014 / Accepted: 22 January 2014 / Published: 28 January 2014
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p. 319-335
Sustainability 2014, 6(1), 319-335; doi:10.3390/su6010319
Received: 21 November 2013 / Revised: 24 December 2013 / Accepted: 30 December 2013 / Published: 7 January 2014
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p. 99-111
Sustainability 2014, 6(1), 99-111; doi:10.3390/su6010099
Received: 18 October 2013 / Revised: 18 November 2013 / Accepted: 17 December 2013 / Published: 23 December 2013
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Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Potential of Underutilized Indigenous Vegetables and Legume Crops to Contribute to Food and Nutritional Security, Income and More Sustainable Production Systems
Author: Andreas W. Ebert
Affiliation: AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center, P.O. Box 42, Shanhua, Tainan 74199, Taiwan
Abstract: Agriculture is under increasing pressure to produce greater quantities of food, feed and biofuel on limited land resources for the projected 9 billion people on the planet by 2050. At the same time there is increased awareness that current intensive monocropping systems based on a few crops are leading to environmental problems such as contamination of rivers and underground water sources for drinking water due to excessive use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Only three crops—wheat, maize and rice—grown on 40% of all arable land, currently deliver more than 55% of human calorie intake. Such an over-reliance on just a handful of major crops has inherent agronomical, ecological, nutritional and economic risks and is unsustainable in the long run, especially in view of global climate change. A wider use of currently underutilized crops, either intercropped with main staples in cereal-based systems or as stand-alone crops, provides more options to build temporal and spatial heterogeneity into uniform cropping systems, and will enhance resilience to both biotic and abiotic stress factors. Given the high nutritional value of many indigenous vegetables compared to global vegetables such as tomato and cabbage, indigenous vegetables and underutilized legume crops such as mungbean are an essential source of vitamins, micronutrients and protein and thus, a valuable component to attain nutritional security. Apart from their commercial, medicinal and cultural value, many indigenous vegetables are also considered important for environmental services due to their adaptation to marginal soil and harsh growing conditions. Vegetables in general, but also many indigenous vegetables such as amaranth, jute mallow, African nightshade, Asian and African eggplant, drumstick tree, bitter gourd, water spinach, Chinese kale, edible rape, roselle, Malabar spinach, slippery cabbage, winged bean and many gourd species are of considerable commercial value and thus can make a significant contribution to household income. However, not all indigenous and underutilized crops can simply and easily be turned into commercial success stories. Significant research, breeding and development efforts are needed for a range of carefully selected, promising crops to convert existing local landraces into varieties with wide adaptation and promising commercial potential. Access to genetic diversity of these selected crops, either in situ or ex situ, is a pre-condition for success. Two underutilized indigenous vegetable crops (amaranth and drumstick tree) and the underutilized legume crop mungbean are highlighted and briefly described in this article. All three crops are well represented in AVRDC’s genebank with substantial inter- and intra-specific genetic diversity, and all three crops already have demonstrated their potential for wider adoption and commercial exploitation.

Title: Promoting Nutrition Sensitive and Climate Smart Agriculture Through Increased Use of Traditional Underutilized Species in the Pacific
Authors: Mary Taylor and Danny Hunter
Affiliation: Agrobiodiversity at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
Abstract: Traditionally the Pacific Islands have depended on the diversity of their local food crops for food and nutritional security. However, increasing urbanization, poor investment in agriculture and the availability of cheap food imports have contributed to the decline of traditional crop production. The focus on markets has encouraged a general erosion of diversity in the food production systems through farmers concentrating on those crops and varieties attractive to the markets. The Pacific region has always faced challenges, due in part to the size of the islands and their geographical isolation. However, with the increasing reliance on imported food products affecting the health of the people across all age ranges, and climate change questioning the resilience of Pacific agriculture, the challenges for food security are greater than they have ever been. Promoting the use of traditional underutilized species has to incorporate development of a value chain approach and market strategies to ensure delivery of health benefits to consumers and economic benefits to local horticultural producers and other value chain actors? Identifying the reasons behind food choices is an essential component of successful value chain development, and addressing those issues that prevent more consumption of traditional, underutilized species. Highlighting the link between dietary diversity and resilient food production systems must be strengthened to ensure that practitioners in both nutrition-sensitive and climate smart agriculture coordinate their interventions. This paper will discuss these issues in the context of the Pacific region, and will focus on a number of species which have been identified by the Pacific Plant Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN) as target species for promotion and development.

Last update: 15 August 2013

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