Harnessing Under-utilized Crop Species- A Promising way towards Sustainability
Agriculture is reeling under intense pressure to constantly produce increased quantities of food, feed and biofuel out of limited land resources. Present over-reliance on a handful of major staple crops has inherent agronomic, ecological, nutritional and economic risks and is probably unsustainable in the long run. Modern agricultural systems that promote cultivation of a very limited number of crop species have downgraded indigenous crops to the status of neglected and under-utilized crop species (NUCS). NUCS are indispensable in reducing food and nutrition insecurity, owing to their wider resilience to climate variability and inherent nutritional composition. Currently underutilized food sources ranging from minor grains and pulses, root and tuber crops and fruits and vegetables to non-timber forest products have the potential to make a substantial contribution to food and nutrition security, to protect against internal and external market disruptions and climate uncertainties, and lead to better ecosystem functions and services, thus enhancing sustainability. The integration of these species diversifies agricultural system and makes it much more resilient as well as strengthens its adaptation, mitigation and coping mechanisms. Most of the these crops do not require high inputs and can be successfully grown in marginal, degraded and wastelands with minimal inputs and at the same time can contribute to increased agricultural production, enhanced crop diversification and improved environment and have the potential to contribute useful genes to breed better varieties capable of withstanding and sustain the climate change scenario. However, what is required to promote NUCS is scientific research including agronomy, breeding, post-harvest handling and value addition, and linking farmers to markets. The paper largely emphasizes on –the potential of neglected and under-utilized crops in the present context owing to global menace of climate change and raised concerns of food and nutritional security for growing population, viable solutions and recommendations to promote its conservation as well as effective use in mainstream agriculture.
KeywordsNeglected and under-utilized crops (NUCS) Agro-diversity Sustainability Resilience Food and nutritional security
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