Using Our Agrobiodiversity: Plant-Based Solutions to Feed the World

A special issue of Agronomy (ISSN 2073-4395). This special issue belongs to the section "Farming Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2021) | Viewed by 34140

Special Issue Editor

Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Section of Organismal Biology, University of Copenhagen, Nørregade 10, 1165 København, Denmark
Interests: tropical botany; economic botany
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The growing global demand for food, in combination with the fast-accelerating climatic change, pose a serious challenge to humankind, namely: how can we provide an increasing world population with an adequate, climatically reliable, and nutritious food supply? The argument being that this is best achieved through the utilization of biodiversity and the inclusion of marginal arable lands for agricultural production, while maintaining a broad gene pool to secure the potential for future plant production and supporting rural agricultural communities. We invite contributions on specific examples, lesser-known and underutilised crops, of how an emphasis on agricultural biodiversity can provide the basis for a nutritional, reliable, culinary, and sustainable food production, and analyse the advantages, limitations, and risks of an increased focus on agrobiodiversity. The main justification for choosing this topic of focus is based on the conclusion that the potential for approaches based on the preservation and development of existing agrobiodiversity has not been given sufficient attention in the current scientific and political debates concerning the best strategy to keep up with the rate of global population growth, the impact of climate change, and the increasing demand for food. An emphasis on agrobiodiversity will be the basis for the most appropriate strategies if the goal is to feed the entire world in the twenty-first century.

Prof. Dr. Marten Sørensen
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • underutilized species
  • agrobiodiversity
  • food production
  • climate change
  • sustainability
  • marginal land

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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25 pages, 15331 KiB  
Article
Duckweeds as Promising Food Feedstocks Globally
Agronomy 2022, 12(4), 796; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12040796 - 26 Mar 2022
Cited by 12 | Viewed by 5419
Abstract
Duckweeds are the smallest flowering plants on Earth. They grow fast on water’s surface and produce large amounts of biomass. Further, duckweeds display high adaptability, and species are found around the globe growing under different environmental conditions. In this work, we report the [...] Read more.
Duckweeds are the smallest flowering plants on Earth. They grow fast on water’s surface and produce large amounts of biomass. Further, duckweeds display high adaptability, and species are found around the globe growing under different environmental conditions. In this work, we report the composition of 21 ecotypes of fourteen species of duckweeds belonging to the two subfamilies of the group (Lemnoideae and Wolffioideae). It is reported the presence of starch and the composition of soluble sugars, cell walls, amino acids, phenolics, and tannins. These data were combined with literature data recovered from 85 publications to produce a compiled analysis that affords the examination of duckweeds as possible food sources for human consumption. We compare duckweeds compositions with some of the most common food sources and conclude that duckweed, which is already in use as food in Asia, can be an interesting food source anywhere in the world. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Using Our Agrobiodiversity: Plant-Based Solutions to Feed the World)
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10 pages, 1171 KiB  
Article
Variation in Nutritional Components in Roots from Ahipa (Pachyrhizus ahipa (Wedd.) Parodi) Accessions and an Interspecific Hybrid (P. ahipa × P. tuberosus (Lam.) Spreng.)
Agronomy 2022, 12(1), 5; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12010005 - 21 Dec 2021
Viewed by 2168
Abstract
Among the many neglected underutilized species, tuberous Andean root crops such as the ahipas (Pachyrhizus ahipa) constitute a promising alternative for increasing diversity in nutrient sources and food security at a regional level. ahipa × P. tuberosus). A significant objective [...] Read more.
Among the many neglected underutilized species, tuberous Andean root crops such as the ahipas (Pachyrhizus ahipa) constitute a promising alternative for increasing diversity in nutrient sources and food security at a regional level. ahipa × P. tuberosus). A significant objective was to determine protein and free amino acids in the roots to evaluate their food quality as protein supply. The interspecific hybrids have been found to possess the root quality to provide the crop with a higher dry matter content. The high dry matter content of the P. tuberosus Chuin materials is retained in the root quality of the hybrids. Food functional components such as carbohydrates, organic acids, and proteins were determined in several ahipa accessions and a stable (non-segregating) progeny of the interspecific hybrid, X207. The X207 roots showed a significantly higher dry matter content and a lower content in soluble sugars, but no significant differences were found in starch content or organic acids compared to the ahipa accessions. Regarding the root mineral contents, Fe and Mn concentrations in X207 were significantly raised compared to the average of ahipa accessions. Among the ahipa and the hybrid, no prominent differences in protein content or protein amino acids were found, being both partially defective in providing sufficient daily intake of some essential amino acids. Root weight, a central component of root yield, was significantly higher in X207, but thorough field studies are required to substantiate the hybrid’s superior yield performance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Using Our Agrobiodiversity: Plant-Based Solutions to Feed the World)
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27 pages, 1943 KiB  
Article
Morphological and Ecogeographic Study of the Diversity of Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) in Ecuador
Agronomy 2021, 11(9), 1844; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11091844 - 14 Sep 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2978
Abstract
Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is a crop of nutritional and economic importance worldwide, cultivated in more than 100 tropical and subtropical countries including Ecuador, where it is traditionally cultivated in the three continental regions: Amazonia, the Coast and in the valleys of [...] Read more.
Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is a crop of nutritional and economic importance worldwide, cultivated in more than 100 tropical and subtropical countries including Ecuador, where it is traditionally cultivated in the three continental regions: Amazonia, the Coast and in the valleys of the Sierra. The purpose of this study is to characterize 195 accessions from INIAP’s Ecuadorian cassava collection through (1) morphological characterization with qualitative and quantitative descriptors; and (2) ecogeographic characterization to know the climatic, geophysical, and edaphic conditions in which cassava grows and which environments are frequent or marginal for its cultivation. For the morphological characterization, 27 morphological descriptors were used (18 qualitative and nine quantitative), and for the ecogeographic characterization, 55 variables (41 climatic, two geophysical and 12 edaphic). Four morphological groups and three ecogeographic groups were identified. Morphological variability was evidenced mainly in descriptors related to the leaves, stems, and inflorescences. In addition, it was possible to identify accessions that appear capable of growing under extreme conditions of drought and poor soils. These accessions could be used for improvement. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Using Our Agrobiodiversity: Plant-Based Solutions to Feed the World)
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28 pages, 3125 KiB  
Article
Characterization and Technological Potential of Underutilized Ancestral Andean Crop Flours from Ecuador
Agronomy 2021, 11(9), 1693; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11091693 - 25 Aug 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3114
Abstract
Ancestral Andean crop flours (ACF) from Ecuador such as camote (Ipomea Batatas), oca (Oxalis tuberosa), achira (Canna indica), mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum), white arracacha (Arracacia xanthorrhiza), taro (Colocasia esculenta) and tarwi ( [...] Read more.
Ancestral Andean crop flours (ACF) from Ecuador such as camote (Ipomea Batatas), oca (Oxalis tuberosa), achira (Canna indica), mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum), white arracacha (Arracacia xanthorrhiza), taro (Colocasia esculenta) and tarwi (Lupinus mutabilis sweet) were characterized in terms of physico-chemical and techno-functional properties in order to identify their potential as new alternative ingredients in food products. Flour from camote, oca, achira and arracacha showed a low protein content (<5%), mashua and taro had ~9% and tarwi flour registered higher values than 52%. Carbohydrate content ranged from 56–77%, with the exception of tarwi, just reaching 6.9%. Starch content was relatively low in ACF but in taro and tarwi, starch practically constituted almost all the carbohydrates. The highest amylose content in starch, in decreasing order, was found in mashua, oca, tarwi and achira flours, the rest being ≤15%. Fiber content exceeded 10% in most crops, except for oca flour with 5.33%. Fat content was generally lower than 1%, except in tarwi with ~17%. All flours showed a gel-like behavior G′ > G″, this being very similar in camote, achira and tarwi flours. The exception was taro with G′ < G″. Mashua flour registered the highest value for phenol content (60.8 µg gallic acid equivalents/g of sample); the content of phenols was not exclusively responsible for the antioxidant activity, since flours with the highest activity were arracacha and tarwi, which presented the lowest phenol content among all flours. Principal component analyses (PCA) showed a high correlation between moisture, fiber, solubility and water absorption capacity, with viscoelastic behavior and total phenolic content; while starch content was correlated with melting temperature, poorly and inversely related to protein and fat. For PC1, achira, camote and taro flours were very similar, and different from oca and mashua flours. Tarwi showed its own characteristics according to PC1 and 2. Because of their properties, Andean crop flours could have a great potential for use in food technology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Using Our Agrobiodiversity: Plant-Based Solutions to Feed the World)
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22 pages, 3604 KiB  
Article
Exploring the Potential of Andean Crops for the Production of Gluten-Free Muffins
Agronomy 2021, 11(8), 1642; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11081642 - 18 Aug 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2359
Abstract
The aim of this study was to determine the potential of Andean Crop Flours (ACF) to develop muffins suitable for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, as these flours do not contain gluten in their composition. The physico-chemical, rheological, microbiological and sensory [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to determine the potential of Andean Crop Flours (ACF) to develop muffins suitable for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, as these flours do not contain gluten in their composition. The physico-chemical, rheological, microbiological and sensory properties of muffins from different blends of the following ACF were evaluated: camote (Ipomea batatas), oca (Oxalis tuberosa), achira (Canna indica) and mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum), formulated with sucrose or sucralose. Wheat muffins with sucrose were used for control purposes. The effect of 5-day storage on color, texture and microbiology was also studied. The use of ACF sharply increased the amount of total dietary fiber, while fat and protein contents were slightly lower with respect to the control. Regarding color, formulations with ACF resulted in darker products, showing an important decrease in L* and b* values while a* increased in all ACF formulations. According to their rheological properties, all doughs showed an unstructured and viscous behavior, and the mixture of camote, achira and mashua with sugar was very similar to wheat muffin. On textural parameters, there was an increasing (p < 0.0) effect on firmness and chewiness noticeable on day 5 in all samples. The resultant muffins were considered safe products due to low counts of total microorganisms, molds and yeasts and the absence of Enterobacteria and Staphylococcus aureus during storage. Muffins with ACF showed good overall acceptability, especially muffins containing sucralose, which obtained the highest score. This study showed that ACF could be used as an alternative raw material in the preparation of gluten-free muffins with good nutritional quality, thus providing a useful alternative for underused crops. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Using Our Agrobiodiversity: Plant-Based Solutions to Feed the World)
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16 pages, 754 KiB  
Article
Effect of Exogenously Applied Methyl Jasmonate on Yield and Quality of Salt-Stressed Hydroponically Grown Sea Fennel (Crithmum maritimum L.)
Agronomy 2021, 11(6), 1083; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11061083 - 27 May 2021
Cited by 16 | Viewed by 2354
Abstract
Salt stress is one of the main limiting factors for plant growth and crop yield. Halophytes have been postulated as a new food source since they are able to grow under saline environments and have suitable minerals and bioactive compounds. See fennel Crithmum [...] Read more.
Salt stress is one of the main limiting factors for plant growth and crop yield. Halophytes have been postulated as a new food source since they are able to grow under saline environments and have suitable minerals and bioactive compounds. See fennel Crithmum maritimum L. is a facultative halophyte moderately tolerant to salinity. This study was carried out in order to determine the effect spraying methyl jasmonate (MeJa) on the leaves had on the growth and nutritional quality of NaCl-treated sea fennel plants grown in a hydroponic system. For that, the seedlings were treated with (a) 0.5 mM MeJa, (b) 150 mM NaCl, and (c) 0.5 mM MeJa + 150 mM NaCl. The results showed that NaCl reduced the shoot biomass of baby leaf plants, but the addition of MeJa enabled partial recovery. At the same time, when compared with the plants treated only with NaCl, MeJa favoured the Ca and K uptake and translocation to the leaves of saline-treated plants. However, MeJa did not reduce Na levels. In all treatments, nitrate and nitrite ions were in the range of the acceptable daily intake (ADI) and essential fatty acid content was elevated, although the addition of MeJa to NaCl-treated plants reduced linolenic and linoleic acid contents as compared to the plants treated only with NaCl. Total phenolic compounds were not recovered by MeJa after their decrease by salinity and no differences in antioxidant activity was found between treatments. However, all the plants maintained their antioxidant nutritional properties and increased total flavonoids after MeJa spraying to NaCl-treated plants. These results showed that MeJa spraying alleviated the negative effects of salt stress in C. maritimum grown in floating systems, improving the growth of their edible parts and increasing the total flavonoid and mineral content without affecting the total antioxidant capacity of the plant. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Using Our Agrobiodiversity: Plant-Based Solutions to Feed the World)
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10 pages, 1213 KiB  
Communication
Sacha Inchi (Plukenetia volubilis L.) Is an Underutilized Crop with a Great Potential
Agronomy 2021, 11(6), 1066; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy11061066 - 25 May 2021
Cited by 28 | Viewed by 10956
Abstract
Plukenetia volubilis (Euphorbiaceae) is an underutilized oilseed crop native to the Amazon basin, where it has been utilized by humans since Incan times. The large seeds contain approximately 45–50% lipid, of which approximately 35.2–50.8% is α-linolenic acid (C18:3 n-3, ω-3) and approximately 33.4–41.0% [...] Read more.
Plukenetia volubilis (Euphorbiaceae) is an underutilized oilseed crop native to the Amazon basin, where it has been utilized by humans since Incan times. The large seeds contain approximately 45–50% lipid, of which approximately 35.2–50.8% is α-linolenic acid (C18:3 n-3, ω-3) and approximately 33.4–41.0% is linoleic acid (C18:2 n-6, ω-6), the two essential fatty acids required by humans. The seeds also contain 22–30% protein and have antioxidant properties. Due to its excellent nutritional composition and good agronomic properties, it has attracted increasing attention in recent years, and cultivation is expanding. When considering current global challenges, a reformation of our food systems is imperative in order to ensure food security, mitigation of climate change, and alleviation of malnutrition. For this purpose, underutilized crops may be essential tools which can provide agricultural hardiness, a reduced need for external inputs, climate resilience, diet diversification, and improved income opportunities for smallholders. Plukenetia volubilis is a promising up and coming crop in this regard and has considerable potential for further domestication; it has an exceptional oil composition, good sensory acceptability, is well suited for cultivation, and has numerous potential applications in, e.g., gastronomy, medicine, and cosmetics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Using Our Agrobiodiversity: Plant-Based Solutions to Feed the World)
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Review

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33 pages, 2680 KiB  
Review
Innovative Pulses for Western European Temperate Regions: A Review
Agronomy 2022, 12(1), 170; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12010170 - 11 Jan 2022
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 3817
Abstract
In Europe, there is an increasing interest in pulses both for their beneficial effects in cropping systems and for human health. However, despite these advantages, the acreage dedicated to pulses has been declining and their diversity has reduced, particularly in European temperate regions, [...] Read more.
In Europe, there is an increasing interest in pulses both for their beneficial effects in cropping systems and for human health. However, despite these advantages, the acreage dedicated to pulses has been declining and their diversity has reduced, particularly in European temperate regions, due to several social and economic factors. This decline has stimulated a political debate in the EU on the development of plant proteins. By contrast, in Southern countries, a large panel of minor pulses is still cropped in regional patterns of production and consumption. The aim of this paper is to investigate the potential for cultivation of minor pulses in European temperate regions as a complement to common pulses. Our assumption is that some of these crops could adapt to different pedoclimatic conditions, given their physiological adaptation capacity, and that these pulses might be of interest for the development of innovative local food chains in an EU policy context targeting protein autonomy. The research is based on a systematic review of 269 papers retrieved in the Scopus database (1974–2019), which allowed us to identify 41 pulses as candidate species with protein content higher than 20% that are already consumed as food. For each species, the main agronomic (e.g., temperature or water requirements) and nutritional characteristics (e.g., proteins or antinutritional contents) were identified in their growing regions. Following their agronomic characteristics, the candidate crops were confronted with variability in the annual growing conditions for spring crops in Western European temperate areas to determine the earliest potential sowing and latest harvest dates. Subsequently, the potential sum of temperatures was calculated with the Agri4cast database to establish the potential climatic suitability. For the first time, 21 minor pulses were selected to be grown in these temperate areas and appear worthy of investigation in terms of yield potential, nutritional characteristics or best management practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Using Our Agrobiodiversity: Plant-Based Solutions to Feed the World)
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