Thousands of traditional crop species could help break dependence on a few global food crops, and offer valuable environmental services, says Monty Jones. Only 150 crop species are grown commercially on a global scale, with wheat and maize alone providing over half of the world's protein and calorie needs. Another 7,000 species play crucial roles in poor people's livelihoods but are otherwise underutilised.
Oryza glaberrima and oryza sativa
are examples of the benefits of m
aking better use of non-commercial crops
These underutilised species have important traditional uses for food, fibre, fodder, vegetable oil and medicines. But they also have unexploited commercial potential and, if used more widely, could provide important environmental services.
They could be developed to improve food security, alleviate poverty, improve nutrition, raise incomes, and sustain critical and fragile ecosystems.
Growing them commercially could make a vital contribution to halting and indeed reversing the loss of biodiversity in farming systems — which will be the inevitable result of continued reliance on a narrow portfolio of crops.
Reference + Read more: SciDev 17/04