|Authors: ||S. Padulosi, P. Van Mele, T. Caruso, N. Kaska, E. Barone|
Pistachio is a crop indigenous to Western and Central Asia, where domestication is likely to have occurred, and natural stands of Pistacia vera can be still found growing in the wild.
Pistachio cultivation has spread to the Mediterranean region, which has become its second most important centre of diversity after Iran.
Pistachio nuts have great market potential throughout the world, however, the importance of Pistacia species is not limited to this product alone: the trees' great tolerance to drought and their ability to thrive in poor soil conditions make them particularly suitable for forestry programmes on marginal lands, where they can also represent a source of additional income for local farmers.
Despite these and other advantages, Pistacia species are far from being properly exploited and studied.
At the same time, the valuable genetic resources of Pistacia are under threat of erosion due to the destruction of natural habitats, the abandonment of traditional cultivars and the conversion of traditional agriculture to modern cultivation systems.
These are among the main factors contributing to the narrowing of its genetic diversity.
In March 1994, IPGRI initiated a new project on the Conservation and Use of Mediterranean Species and in the framework of this initiative a Network on Pistacia was established.
The outcome of this group's work was the production of Descriptor Lists for P. vera and its wild relatives (P. atlantica, P. terebinthus, P. palestina, P. khinjuk etc.). These publications, which are being now used in joint characterisation and evaluation work, represent an important tool for the better understanding of the genetic diversity within the genus and the promotion of its better utilisation.
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