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

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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

Submission

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).

Keywords

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

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle A Holistic Approach to Enhance the Use of Neglected and Underutilized Species: The Case of Andean Grains in Bolivia and Peru
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
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (2516 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The IFAD-NUS project, implemented over the course of a decade in two phases, represents the first UN-supported global effort on neglected and underutilized species (NUS). This initiative, deployed and tested a holistic and innovative value chain framework using multi-stakeholder, participatory, inter-disciplinary, pro-poor [...] Read more.
The IFAD-NUS project, implemented over the course of a decade in two phases, represents the first UN-supported global effort on neglected and underutilized species (NUS). This initiative, deployed and tested a holistic and innovative value chain framework using multi-stakeholder, participatory, inter-disciplinary, pro-poor gender- and nutrition-sensitive approaches. The project has been linking aspects often dealt with separately by R&D, such as genetic diversity, selection, cultivation, harvest, value addition, marketing, and final use, with the goal to contribute to conservation, better incomes, and improved nutrition and strengthened livelihood resilience. The project contributed to the greater conservation of Andean grains and their associated indigenous knowledge, through promoting wider use of their diversity by value chain actors, adoption of best cultivation practices, development of improved varieties, dissemination of high quality seed, and capacity development. Reduced drudgery in harvest and postharvest operations, and increased food safety were achieved through technological innovations. Development of innovative food products and inclusion of Andean grains in school meal programs is projected to have had a positive nutrition outcome for targeted communities. Increased income was recorded for all value chain actors, along with strengthened networking skills and self-reliance in marketing. The holistic approach taken in this study is advocated as an effective strategy to enhance the use of other neglected and underutilized species for conservation and livelihood benefits. Full article
Open AccessArticle Conservation and Use of Genetic Resources of Underutilized Crops in the Americas—A Continental Analysis
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
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (1258 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Latin America is home to dramatically diverse agroecological regions which harbor a high concentration of underutilized plant species, whose genetic resources hold the potential to address challenges such as sustainable agricultural development, food security and sovereignty, and climate change. This paper examines [...] Read more.
Latin America is home to dramatically diverse agroecological regions which harbor a high concentration of underutilized plant species, whose genetic resources hold the potential to address challenges such as sustainable agricultural development, food security and sovereignty, and climate change. This paper examines the status of an expert-informed list of underutilized crops in Latin America and analyses how the most common features of underuse apply to these. The analysis pays special attention to if and how existing international policy and legal frameworks on biodiversity and plant genetic resources effectively support or not the conservation and sustainable use of underutilized crops. Results show that not all minor crops are affected by the same degree of neglect, and that the aspects under which any crop is underutilized vary greatly, calling for specific analyses and interventions. We also show that current international policy and legal instruments have so far provided limited stimulus and funding for the conservation and sustainable use of the genetic resources of these crops. Finally, the paper proposes an analytical framework for identifying and evaluating a crop’s underutilization, in order to define the most appropriate type and levels of intervention (international, national, local) for improving its status. Full article
Open AccessArticle Agricultural Biodiversity in Southern Brazil: Integrating Efforts for Conservation and Use of Neglected and Underutilized Species
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
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (1418 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Brazil is one of the most biodiversity rich countries in the world, including a wealth of agricultural biodiversity in both wild and cultivated forms. This is particularly noticeable in southern Brazil, home to a wide array of underutilized food species whose genetic [...] Read more.
Brazil is one of the most biodiversity rich countries in the world, including a wealth of agricultural biodiversity in both wild and cultivated forms. This is particularly noticeable in southern Brazil, home to a wide array of underutilized food species whose genetic diversity is maintained mostly by farmers through on-farm management practices. Farmers’ contribution in safeguarding and keeping alive traditional knowledge (TK) essential for recognizing, cultivating, valorising and consuming these resources is critical to their conservation. Part of this diversity, a rich basket of native fruits and landraces of vegetables and grains, is also maintained through ex situ collections managed by Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and its partners. This article discusses the integrated efforts for in situ/on-farm and ex situ conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity in southern Brazil. This diversity represents an important cultural heritage, since its use, cultivation and associated knowledge result from the dynamic history of the Brazilian population, including colonisation and immigration by several different ethnicities. Many of these species are sources of genes that convey tolerance to biotic and abiotic stresses, as a result of the combined action of natural selection and artificial selection by farmers in agricultural systems with low inputs and diverse environmental conditions. Due to their importance for food security, use in breeding programs, high nutritional value, and potential for income generation, Embrapa has taken responsibility for the ex situ conservation of these species. The genebanks that safeguard against the loss of these resources do also play an important role in the restoration of this germplasm to farming communities. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Market Participation and Agro-Biodiversity Loss: The Case of Native Chili Varieties in the Amazon Rainforest of Peru
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
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (867 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Policies for promoting the in situ conservation of underutilized crop varieties include the provision of economic incentives to farmers for their market commercialization. Nevertheless, market participation could also have the counter-effect of favoring the cultivation of uniform commercial crop varieties and inducing [...] Read more.
Policies for promoting the in situ conservation of underutilized crop varieties include the provision of economic incentives to farmers for their market commercialization. Nevertheless, market participation could also have the counter-effect of favoring the cultivation of uniform commercial crop varieties and inducing the erosion of crop genetic diversity. The objective of this research was to identify the determinants of the in situ conservation of native chili varieties, including market participation. To this end, 128 farmers were surveyed in the Amazon rainforest region of Ucayali in Peru. The data were analyzed using probit, multinomial logit and truncated Poisson models with covariance matrix correction for cluster errors by rural community. Results suggest that participation in commercial agriculture statistically significantly increases the in situ conservation of native chili varieties; only when farmers sell their products to local retailers, but not when they supply wholesalers. In particular, this result implies that policies designed to encourage specific forms of market participation could have a positive effect on farmers’ economic well-being and simultaneously could help to achieve crop genetic diversity conservation goals. Full article
Open AccessArticle Potential of Underutilized Traditional Vegetables and Legume Crops to Contribute to Food and Nutritional Security, Income and More Sustainable Production Systems
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
Cited by 14 | PDF Full-text (540 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Agriculture is under pressure to produce greater quantities of food, feed and biofuel on limited land resources. Current over-reliance on a handful of major staple crops has inherent agronomic, ecological, nutritional and economic risks and is probably unsustainable in the long run. [...] Read more.
Agriculture is under pressure to produce greater quantities of food, feed and biofuel on limited land resources. Current over-reliance on a handful of major staple crops has inherent agronomic, ecological, nutritional and economic risks and is probably unsustainable in the long run. Wider use of today’s underutilized minor crops provides more options to build temporal and spatial heterogeneity into uniform cropping systems and will enhance resilience to both biotic and abiotic stress. Many traditional vegetables and underutilized legume crops are an essential source of vitamins, micronutrients and protein and, thus, a valuable component to attain nutritional security. Vegetables in general are of considerable commercial value and therefore an important source of household income. Significant research, breeding and development efforts are needed for a range of promising crops to convert existing local landraces into competitive varieties with wide adaptation and promising commercial potential. Access to genetic diversity of these selected crops is a pre-condition for success. Three underutilized minor crops—amaranth, drumstick tree, and mungbean—are highlighted and briefly described. All three crops are well-represented in AVRDC’s genebank with substantial inter- and intra-specific genetic diversity, and already have demonstrated their potential for wider adoption and commercial exploitation. Full article
Open AccessArticle Persea schiedeana: A High Oil “Cinderella Species” Fruit with Potential for Tropical Agroforestry Systems
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
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (1256 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Persea schiedeana, a close relative of avocado (Persea americana), is an important part of agroforestry systems and diets in parts of Mesoamerica, particularly in the coffee growing areas of southeastern Mexico and Guatemala, where it is known as chinene [...] Read more.
Persea schiedeana, a close relative of avocado (Persea americana), is an important part of agroforestry systems and diets in parts of Mesoamerica, particularly in the coffee growing areas of southeastern Mexico and Guatemala, where it is known as chinene, coyo, and yas. Little research attention has been given to this species, other than as a rootstock for avocado. Research carried out in six villages composing the Comité de Recursos Naturales de la Chinantla Alta (CORENCHI) in Oaxaca, Mexico shows that Persea schiedeana has potential as a supplement to avocado production in subsistence systems and as a potential oil crop in more market oriented agroforestry systems. This survey of Persea schiedeana in the Chinantla area reports on the ethnoecology and management of chinene, as well as on the morphological diversity of the fruit in the area. High morphological diversity for fruit characters was noted and it is suggested that artificial selection has occurred and been modestly successful for desired fruit characters. Superior fruiting trees, identified during village level “chinene fairs” were targeted for vegetative propagation as part of a participatory domestication project. Such superior genotypes hold potential for addressing food security and creating marketable products in tropical areas around the globe. Full article

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.

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