It has proved difficult to define just what qualifies as an ‘underused’ or ‘underutilised’ species, and also, terms such as ‘underutilized’, ‘neglected’, ‘orphan’, ‘minor’, ‘promising’, ‘niche’ and ‘traditional’ are often used interchangeably to characterise such plants. However, Crops for the Future define underutilised species as:
Plant species that are used traditionally for food, fibre, fodder, fuel, industrial, oil or medicinal products, and that have an under-exploited potential to contribute to food security, nutrition, health, income generation and environmental services.
At present, only 150 plant species are used and commercialised on a significant global scale, and over 50% of humanity’s requirements for protein and calories are met by only three: rice, wheat and maize. Yet, there are an estimated 7,000 species that play a crucial role in poor people’s livelihood strategies and may have a significant potential for commercialisation. Alongside this, many underutilised plant species also provide important environmental services, as they are adapted to marginal soil and climate conditions.
Underutilised species generally have the following common features, as they:
- Represent an enormous wealth of agrobiodiversity and have great potential for contributing to improved incomes, food security and nutrition, and for combating the ‘hidden hunger’ caused by micronutrient (vitamin and mineral) deficiencies.
- Are strongly linked to the cultural heritage of their places of origin.
- Are mainly local and traditional crops (with their ecotypes and landraces) or wild species whose distribution, biology, cultivation and uses are poorly documented.
- Tend to be adapted to specific agro-ecological niches and marginal lands.
- Have weak or no formal seed supply systems.
- Are recognized to have traditional uses in localized areas.
- Are collected from the wild or produced in traditional production systems with little or no external inputs.
- Receive little attention from research, extension services, farmers, policy and decision makers, donors, technology providers and consumers.
- May be highly nutritious and/or have medicinal properties or other multiple uses.
Main underused crops in the CoDI project (or underutilised in the target area)
Listed alphabetically by the common names used in this website
|Aonla/amla||Emblica officinalis||Fruit||India (MP., Mah.)|
|Bo khai||Erythropalum scandens||Leaves||Vietnam (Bac Kan)|
|Nut/fruit||India (Guj., MP., Mah.)|
|Chironji||Buchanania lanzan||Fruit||India (MP.)|
|Finger millet||Eleusine coracana||Grain||India (Guj., Kar., Mah.)|
|Fruit||India (Kar., MP.)|
|Jamun||Syzygium cumini||Fruit||India (Guj., MP., Mah.)|
|Karondi/blackberry||Carissa carandas||Fruit||India (MP.)|
|Kartul/katula||Momordica dioica||Fruit||India (Guj., Mah.|
|Fruit||India (Guj., Mah.)|
|Longan||Dimocarpus longan||Fruit||Vietnam (Ha Noi)|
|Fruit||India (Guj., MP., Mah.)|
|Niger||Guizotia abyssinica||Oilseed||India (Guj., Mah.)|
|Mahua/mahuva||Madhuca longifolia||Oilseed||India (Guj., MP., Mah.)|
|Pomelo/pummelo||Citrus grandis||Fruit||Vietnam (Thua Thien Hue)|
|Proso millet||Panicum millaceum||Grain||India (Mah.)|
sativa var. glutinosa
|Grain||Vietnam (Hai Duong)|
|Fruit||India (Kar., MP.)|
*Indian states (Guj. Gujarat; MP. – Madhya Pradesh; Mah. Maharashtra; Kar. Karnataka)