Skip to main content

Orphan crops: their importance and the urgency of improvement

Abstract

Main conclusion

Due to significant contributions of orphan crops in the economy of the developing world, scientific studies need to be promoted on these little researched but vital crops of smallholder farmers and consumers.

Abstract

Food security is the main challenge in the developing world, particularly in the least developed countries. Orphan crops play a vital role in the food security and livelihood of resource-poor farmers and consumers in these countries. Like major crops, there are members of all food types—cereals, legumes, vegetables and root and tuber crops, that are considered to be orphan crops. Despite their huge importance for present and future agriculture, orphan crops have generally received little attention by the global scientific community. Due to this, they produce inferior yields in terms of both quantity and quality. The major bottlenecks affecting the productivity of these crops are little or no selection of improved genetic traits, extreme environmental conditions and unfavorable policy. However, some orphan crops have recently received the attention of the global and national scientific community where advanced research and development initiatives have been launched. These initiatives which implement a variety of genetic and genomic tools targeted major constraints affecting productivity and/or nutritional quality of orphan crops. In this paper, some of these initiatives are briefly described. Here, I provide key suggestions to relevant stakeholders regarding improvement of orphan crops. Concerted efforts are urgently needed to advance the research and development of both the major and orphan crops so that food security will be achieved and ultimately the livelihood of the population will be improved.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Adapted from (FAOSTAT 2018)

Fig. 3

Adapted from (Mabaya et al. 2017; CSA 2015; WheatAtlas 2019)

Abbreviations

AOCC:

African Orphan Crops Consortium

AVRDC:

World Vegetable Center

BBSRC:

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

BGI:

Beijing Genomics Institute

BMGF:

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

CCRP:

Collaborative Crop Research Program, McKnight Foundation

CEPLAS:

Cluster of Excellence in Plant Science

CFF:

Crops for Future

CGIAR:

Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research

CIAT:

International Center for Tropical Agriculture

CIMMYT:

International Maize and Improvement Center

CIP:

International Potato Center

CRISPR/Cas9:

Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/CRISPR-associated 9

ECA:

Economic Commission for Africa

FAO:

Food and Agriculture Organization

GBS:

Genotyping by sequencing

GWAS:

Genome wide association study

ICARDA:

International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas

ICRAF:

World Agroforestry Centre

ICRISAT:

International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics

IFAD:

International Fund for Agricultural Development

IITA:

International Institute of Tropical Agriculture

LDC:

Least Developed Countries

NEPAD:

New Partnership for Africa’s Development

NRC:

National Research Council of the USA

ODAP:

β-N-Oxalyl-L-α, β-diaminopropanoic acid

PPP:

Public–private partnership

SASSA:

Sustainable Agriculture for Sub-Saharan Africa

SFSA:

Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

TILLING:

Targeting induced local lesions in genomes

References

Download references

Acknowledgements

The Research in my lab is financially supported by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and University of Bern.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Zerihun Tadele.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

I declare that there is no financial interest or conflict of interest.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Tadele, Z. Orphan crops: their importance and the urgency of improvement. Planta 250, 677–694 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00425-019-03210-6

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00425-019-03210-6

Keywords