Plant agro-biodiversity needs protection, study and promotion: results of research conducted in Lombardy region (Northern Italy)

  • Luca GiupponiEmail author
  • Roberto Pilu
  • Alessio Scarafoni
  • Annamaria Giorgi
Original Paper
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Biodiversity exploitation and use


The loss of plant agro-biodiversity is a global problem with repercussions on both humans and (agro-)ecosystems. This article presents the data of a census of the herbaceous landraces currently cultivated in Lombardy (Northern Italy), one of the most industrialized regions of Europe, and for which information was previously extremely limited. The census showed that 72 herbaceous landraces are cultivated (conserved on farms) in Lombardy yet most of them are threatened since they are cultivated by a small number of farmers, mostly hobbyists. Only 11% have been the subject of scientific studies while 12.5% are protected since they are registered in the European Register of Conservation Varieties. Lombardy has lost about 78% of its landraces cultivated over the last 70–80 years. The nutritional characteristics of four little-known maize landraces of the Lombardy region recently used for the creation of niche food chains were also analyzed. They have a higher content of protein (about 12.34%) and phytic acid (about 1.35%), compared to a hybrid maize (B73/Mo17), while they are slightly poorer in starch (about 77.85%), Mg and Zn. Some of these landraces, those with coloured kernels due to the high concentration of polyphenols, have high antioxidant activity which makes them interesting for the production of nutraceutical foods. 2D-electrophoretic protein profiles highlighted that the four maize landraces are different one from another. Finally, some actions and tools are suggested to favour the in situ conservation of plant agro-biodiversity.


Agricultural biodiversity In situ conservation Landraces Nutritional value Plant genetic resources Zea mays 



We wish to thank Elisabetta Galanti, Arianna Di Marco, Lara Domini, Davide Maria Molinari for their work in the field and in the laboratory, Laura Ronchi of Lombardy Region for her support, and all the farmers and associations that have contributed to this study. This research was supported by “Accordo di collaborazione fra Regione Lombardia e CRC Ge.S.Di.Mont. per attività di ricerca scientifica ed applicata e di diffusione della conoscenza inerente il territorio montano lombardo (art. 4 c.7 l.r. 22/2016)”, “FISR-MIUR Italian Mountain Lab” project and by “Valorizzazione della biodiversità dei territori di montagna, con particolare riferimento all’agro-biodiversità e derivati: orizzonti di bio e green economy per la montagna (DARA–CRC Ge.S.Di.Mont.)” project.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

10531_2019_1889_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (36 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 35 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre of Applied Studies for the Sustainable Management and Protection of Mountain Areas, CRC Ge.S.Di.Mont.University of MilanEdoloItaly
  2. 2.Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences-Production, Landscape and AgroenergyUniversity of MilanMilanItaly
  3. 3.Department of Food, Environmental and Nutritional SciencesUniversity of MilanMilanItaly

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