|Authors: ||T.K. Hazarika, S. Marak|
The northeastern region of India, being one of the mega hot spots of plant biodiversity in the world is considered as one of the richest reservoirs of genetic variability and diversity of various horticultural crops including fruits.
This region contains more than one third of the country's total fruit diversity.
In addition to commercial fruits, the region is also known for its rich genetic resources of underutilized and underexploited fruits.
These fruits are neither grown commercially on large scale nor traded widely.
They are scattered only in wild forest or semi-wild in homestead gardens and remained uncared for albeit with large variability and are traded and consumed locally.
Considerable diversity exists among these species in plant type, morphological and physiological characteristics, adaptability and distribution.
They can be grown under stress and adverse conditions and are also known for their medicinal, therapeutic and nutritive values.
These fruits, from time immemorial are known to play an important role in food and nutritional supplement of rural community.
Most of them are very rich sources of vitamins, minerals along with carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
This region harbors a good number of underutilized and under exploited species viz., Aegle marmelos, Artocarpus heterophyllus, Artocarpus lackoocha, Averrhoea carambola, Baccaurea ramiflora, Citrus medica, Citrus macroptera, Citrus grandis, Dillenia indica, Elaegnus latifolia, Elaeocarpus floribundus, Emblica officinalis, Ficus semicordata, Garcinia cowa, Passiflora edulis, Phylanthus acidus, Spondias pinnata, Syzigium jambos, Tamarindus indica, Terminalia chebula and many more.
Although these fruits contain almost all vitamins and minerals, most of them remained underexploited due to the lack of awareness of their potential, market demand and knowledge of bio-prospecting and value addition.
But of now, the genetic resources of such fruits are facing a great threat of extinction due to climate change, large-scale urbanization, changing attitude and taste of peoples and developmental projects.
To safeguard the existing diversity of underutilized fruits, systematic exploitation, collection, characterization, multiplication, and conservation of these valuable resources are urgently needed to ensure food and nutritional security of rural populations and to achieve sustainable development of the NE region of India.
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