Economic Botany

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 387–399 | Cite as

Native crop diversity in Aridoamerica: Conservation of regional gene pools

  • Gary Paul Nabhan


Scholars have seldom considered the native crop diversity in northwest Mexico and the U.S. Southwest as resources of the same cohesive ecological and cultural region. The term Aridoamerica is introduced to describe this overlooked center of plant domestication and diversification, which is distinct from centers of Mesoamerica and the Mississippi Valley. To understand why certain of its landraces are unique, the systematic relationships and gene-pool relations of crops found prehistorically and protohistorically in Aridoamerica are reviewed. Signifcant crop/ weed introgression continues where indigenous agriculture persists, but native fields are being rapidly abandoned or converted. In planning in situ and ex situ conservation efforts to maintain this diversity, both cultural factors and plant population genetics must be considered.


Economic Botany Amaranth Genetic Erosion Helianthus Annuus Sonoran Desert 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Bingham, S., and J. Bingham. 1979. Navajo Farming. Utah State University, Logan, UT, for Roughrock School, AZ.Google Scholar
  2. Bretting, P. K. 1982. Morphological differentiation ofProboscidea parviflora ssp.parviflora (Martyniaceae) under domestication. Amer. J. Bot. 69: 1531–1537.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Calloway, D. H., R. D. Giauque, and F. P. Costa. 1974. The superior mineral content of some Indian foods in comparison to federally donated counterpart commodities. Ecol. Food. Nutr. 3: 203–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carter, G. F. 1945. Plant geography and culture history in the American Southwest. Viking Fund Publ. Anthropol. 5: 1–141.Google Scholar
  5. Davis, T., IV, and R. A. Bye, Jr. 1982. Ethnobotany and progressive domestication ofJaltomata (Solanaceae) in Mexico and Central America. Econ. Bot. 36: 225–241.Google Scholar
  6. Doebley, J. F. 1984. “Seeds” of wild grasses: a major food of Southwestern Indians. Econ. Bot. 38: 52–64.Google Scholar
  7. Dressler, R. L. 1953. The pre-Columbian cultivated plants of Mexico. Bot. Mus. Leafl. Harvard Univ. 16: 115–173.Google Scholar
  8. Ehrenfeld, D. W. 1977. The conservation of non-resources. Amer. Sci. 64: 648–656.Google Scholar
  9. Fish, S. K., P. R. Rish, C. Miksicek, and J. Madsen. In prep. Prehistoric agave cultivation in southern Arizona. Desert Plants.Google Scholar
  10. Ford, R. I. 1981. Gardening and farming before A.D. 1000: patterns of prehistoric cultivation north of Mexico. J. Ethnobiol. 1: 6–27.Google Scholar
  11. Harlan, J. 1975. Crops and Man. Amer. Soc. Agronomy. Madison, WI.Google Scholar
  12. Hernandez X., E. 1981. Agroecosistemas de Mexico: Contribuciones a las ensenanzas, investigaciones y divulgacion agricola. Colegio de Postgraduados, Chapingo, Mexico.Google Scholar
  13. Iltis, H. H. 1974. Freezing the genetic landscape-the preservation of diversity in cultivated plants as an urgent social responsibility of the plant geneticist and plant taxonomist. Maize Genet. Coop. Newslett. 48: 199–200.Google Scholar
  14. Kirchhoff, P. 1954. Gatherers and farmers in the Greater Southwest: a problem in classification. Amer. Anthropol. 56: 529–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Leeds, A. R. 1981. Legume diets for diabetics? J. Pl. Foods 3: 219–223.Google Scholar
  16. Leon, J. 1979. Crop Genetic Resources in Central America. CATIE/GTZ Program, Turrialba, Costa Rica.Google Scholar
  17. Mackie, W. W. 1943. Origin, dispersal and variability ofPhaseolus lunatus. Hilgardia 15: 1–29.Google Scholar
  18. Merrick, L. C. In prep. Biosystematics of theCucurbita sororia group.Google Scholar
  19. — and G. P. Nabhan. 1984. Natural hybridization of wildCucurbita sororia group and domesticatedC. mixta in southern Sonora, Mexico. Cucurbit Genet. Coop. Newslett. 7: 73–75.Google Scholar
  20. Miller, W. 1983. Uto-aztecan.In Alfonso Ortiz, ed, Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 10., p. 113–124. Smithsonian Inst., Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  21. Nabhan, G. P. 1979a. Amaranth cultivation in the U.S. Southwest and northwest Mexico. 2nd Amaranth Conf. Proc., p. 129–133. Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA.Google Scholar
  22. -. 1979b. Tepary Beans Domestication: Ecological and Nutritional Changes duringPhaseolus acutifolius Evolution. Unpubl. Master’s Thesis, Univ. Arizona, Tucson, AZ.Google Scholar
  23. —, A. Whiting, H. Dobyns, R. Euler, and R. Hevly. 1981a. Devil’s claw domestication: evidence from Southwestern Indian fields. J. Ethnobiol. 1: 135–164.Google Scholar
  24. —, C. Anson, M. Drees, and D. Lopez. 1981b. Kaicka: Seed Saving the Papago-Pima Way. Meals for Millions/Freedom from Hunger Foundation, Tucson, AZ.Google Scholar
  25. -. 1983. Papago Fields: Arid Lands Ethnobotany and Agricultural Ecology. Unpubl. Ph.D. Diss., Univ. Arizona, Tucson.Google Scholar
  26. —, and K. L. Reichhardt. 1983. Hopi protection ofHelianthus anomalus, a rare sunflower. Southwestern Naturalist 28: 231–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. — 1984. Evidence of gene flow between cultivatedCucurbita mixta and a field edge population of wildCucurbita at Onavas, Sonora. Cucurbit Genet. Coop. Newslett. 7: 76–77.Google Scholar
  28. —, and J. M. J. de Wet. 1984.Panicum sonorum in Sonoran Desert agriculture. Econ. Bot. 38: 65–82.Google Scholar
  29. —, C. W. Weber, and J. W. Berry. 1985. Variation in composition of Hopi Indian beans. Ecol. Food. Nutr. 16: 135–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. -., and A. M. Rea. In press. Plant domestication and folk taxonomic change: the Northern Piman/devil's claw example. Amer. Anthropol.Google Scholar
  31. Pennington, C. W. 1982. La cultura de los Eudeve del noroeste de Mexico. Noroeste de Mexico 6: 9–34.Google Scholar
  32. Ramos, R. 1980. Una observation clinica sobre el efecto hopoglicemiante del nopal(Opuntia sp.). Med. Tradicional 3: 12–23.Google Scholar
  33. Robertson, T. A., ed. 1972. My Life Among the Savage Nations of New Spain, by Perez de Ribas. Ward Ritchie Press, Los Angeles, CA.Google Scholar
  34. Rogers, C. E., T. E. Thompson, and C. E. Seiler. 1982. Sunflower Species of the United States. National Sunflower Assoc, Bismarck, ND.Google Scholar
  35. Romney, E. M., A. Wallace, and R. B. Hunter. 1978. Plant response to nitrogen fertilization in the northern Mohave Desert and its relation to water utilization.In N. E. West and J. Skukins, ed, Nitrogen in Desert Ecosystems, p. 232–242. Dowden, Hutchinson and Ross, Stroudsburg, PA.Google Scholar
  36. Roos, E. E. 1980. Phsyiological, biochemical, and genetic changes in seed quality during storage. HortScience 15: 781–784.Google Scholar
  37. — 1984. Report of the Storage Committee Working Group on ‘Effects of storage on genetic integrity’ 1980-1983. Seed Sci. Technol. 12: 255–260.Google Scholar
  38. Rzedowski, J. 1978. Vegetacion de Mexico. Editorial Limusa, Mexico, D.F.Google Scholar
  39. Sauer, J. 1977. The grain amaranths and their relatives: a revised taxonomic and geographic survey.In Amaranth Round-up, p. 13–24. Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA.Google Scholar
  40. Spicer, E. H. 1971. Persistent cultural systems. Science 174: 795–800.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tanksley, S. D. 1983. Introgression of genes from wild species.In S. D. Tanksley and T. J. Orton, ed, Isozymes in Plant Genetics and Breeding. Elsevier, New York.Google Scholar
  42. Toledo, V., J. Carabias, C. Mapes, and C. Toledo. 1981. Critica de la ecologia politica. Nexos 4: 14–21.Google Scholar
  43. U.S. Office of Technology Assessment. 1984. Water-related Technologies for Sustainable Agriculture in U.S. Arid/Semi-Arid Lands. U.S. Gov. Printing Office, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  44. Vavilov, N. I. 1951. The origin, variation, immunity and breeding of cultivated plants. Chron. Bot. 13: 1–136.Google Scholar
  45. West, K. M. 1974. Diabetes in American Indians and other native populations of the New World. Diabetes 23: 10–18.Google Scholar
  46. West, R. C. 1964. Natural regions of Middle America.In R. Wauchope, ed., Handbook of Middle American Indians. Vol. 1. Univ. Texas Press, Austin, TX.Google Scholar
  47. Wilkes, H. G. 1970. Teosinte introgression in the maize of Nobogame Valley. Bot. Mus. Leaflets, Harvard Univ. 22: 297–311.Google Scholar
  48. Wilkes, H. G. 1971. Too little gene exchange. Science 171: 955.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wilson, H. D. 1981. DomesticatedChenopodium of the Ozark Bluff dwellers. Econ. Bot. 35: 233–239.Google Scholar
  50. Winter, J. C. 1974. Aboriginal Agriculture in the Southwest and Great Basin. Unpubl. Ph.D. Diss., Univ. Utah, Salt Lake City, UT.Google Scholar
  51. Woodbury, R., and E. Zubrow. 1979. Agricultural beginnings, 500 B.C. to A.D. 1000.In Alfonso Ortiz, ed, Handbook of the North American Indians. Vol. 9. Smithsonian Inst., Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  52. Woosley, A. I. 1980. Agricultural diversity in the prehistoric Southwest. Kiva 45: 317–336.Google Scholar
  53. Zeven, A. C., and J. M. J. de Wet. 1982. Dictionary of Cultivated Plants and Their Regions of Diversity. Center for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands.Google Scholar
  54. Zhukovsky, P. M. 1975. World gene pool of plants for breeding. Mega-gene centers and endemic micro-gene centers. USSR Academy of Sciences, Leningrad.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The New York Botanical Garden 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gary Paul Nabhan
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Office of Arid Lands StudiesUniversity of ArizonaTucson
  2. 2.Native Seeds/SEARCHTucson

Personalised recommendations