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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1241: III International Symposium on Underutilized Plant Species

Potential vegetable crops - need for exploration and conservation for nutritional security for rural livelihoods

Authors:   A. Palanisamy, D. Kannan, M. Kavitha, C. Ravindran, J. Rajangam
Keywords:   underexploited, vegetables, nutritional security, rural livelihoods, exploration, conservation
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2019.1241.11
Underexploited vegetables are known to play a major role in the nutritional livelihood of the Indian population especially in the rural areas where people cannot pay for meat, egg and milk. They are minor, neglected potential crops but not fully exploited for nutritional security, health, poverty alleviation and providing daily diet. In the face of threats posed by climate change as exemplified by drastic changes in rainfall pattern, temperature, relative humidity, radiation, weeds-pests-diseases complex and general alterations in the trends of climatic elements, there is the need to discuss the future of the uncultivated but edible plant species which have served as basis of livelihood for the poor people over several years. Underexploited vegetable crops have many uses like quick, easy to grow and hardy in nature, these crops tolerate adverse climatic and soil conditions, they are a nutritionally rich source of vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, protein, fats and protect from malnutrition deficiency disease in poor rural children mainly under the age limit of 3-4 years in India. Underexploited vegetable crops have a long history of local consumption and people are aware about their nutritional and medicinal properties. These are cheap and readily available. Cultivation of these crops is restricted to specialized geographical regions mainly by poor farming communities which derive their sustenance and livelihood from such plants. Evidently, these crops of widely consumed nutritious vegetables have been relatively neglected in research and conservation. In India 47% of children below the age of three years are malnourished or underweight, out of a global estimated total of 146 million, south Asia has the highest rates. Presently most of the research work is focused on more popular vegetables like tomato, chili, watermelon, cucumber, cauliflower, cabbage, carrot, etc. Minor work is done on improvement of these underutilized vegetables. However, some preliminary work was carried out on improvement of these future vegetables and cultivars developed are discussed under different groups such as underutilized cucurbits, minor legumes, less leafy vegetables, solanaceous vegetables, tree vegetables and underutilized cole crops. This paper therefore discusses the diversity of underexploited vegetables in India by taking into account the available species, the uses, the mode of exploitation and the role that extension education can play in bringing these crops into cultivation, especially in this era of climate change in order to prevent them from extinction and provide nutritional security to rural people.

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