The New Agriculturalist tells us about neglected and underutilised species.
‘Variety is said to be the spice of life and to make our lives more interesting. And yet, worldwide, a significant proportion of the global treasure chest of plant biodiversity is disappearing; FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] reports that approximately 75 per cent of the Earth’s plant genetic resources are already extinct. By 2050, another third of plant species is expected to disappear. These undervalued wild and cultivated species hold the keys to our future with genes that provide resilience to changing climatic conditions and greater nutritional characteristics than our key staples (maize, rice, wheat). And yet a greater research and development focus on neglected and underutilised species (NUS), also known as orphan crops, would help to sustain smallholder farmers and provide improved livelihoods, income and health for their families.’
Yes, plant species are going extinct that fast. 3/4 already gone. Another 1/3 expected to go by the middle of this century.
This is no joke because we eat plants and we need them in a thousand other ways. We should look more at the neglected plant species, whether those are orphan crops, minority crops, local crops or wild plants that could be domesticated. That’s why the Cordoba Declaration was issued a few months ago.
‘If we are to feed 9 billion people in 2050 in a sustainable way, protect the environment, provide healthy and nutritious food for all, and enhance the livelihoods of farmers, we need more diversity in agricultural and food systems.’
You could follow my ‘neglected crop’ tag. I’ll write more but today I’ll remark that some (not all, but some) of the attention given to genetic modification (GM, genetic engineering, GE) could be spent on domesticating, and selectively breeding, edible plants we neglect.