Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution

, Volume 61, Issue 3, pp 669–676 | Cite as

A psammophyte Agriophyllum squarrosum (L.) Moq.: a potential food crop

  • Guoxiong Chen
  • Jiecai Zhao
  • Xin Zhao
  • Pengshan Zhao
  • Ruijun Duan
  • Eviatar Nevo
  • Xiaofei Ma
Notes on Neglected and Underutilized Crops


Agriophyllum squarrosum is an annual psammophyte adapted to mobile sand dunes in arid and semi-arid regions of Central Asia. The species has evolved a range of physiological, morphological, and ecological adaptations to allow it to be a pioneer species of unstable, nutrient-poor, drought-prone and hot sand dunes. Local populations in the sandy desert regions of China consume the seed of the species during periods of food shortage, and refer to the plant as “shami” in Chinese, which translates as “sand rice”. The sand rice seeds have high nutritional value, containing around 23 % protein, 9 % lipid, 45 % carbohydrates, 8 % crude fiber and 5 % ash. The protein fraction includes the full range of essential amino acids required in the human diet. The lipid fraction comprises mostly polyunsaturated fatty acid. The ash fraction is rich in iron. Sand rice is a good candidate species for domestication to provide a food crop resilient to future climate change.


Agriophyllum squarrosum Chenopodiaceae Heat tolerance Quinoa Sandy desert Wild plant domestication 



We thank the support for Agriophyllum squarrosum investigation from our colleagues in Shapotou Desert Research and Experiment Station and from Dr. Zhenghu Duan and Mrs. Yan Ma, and appreciate the constructive and helpful suggestions from Dr. Chengbin Xiang. We thank Dr. Xiaojun Li for his kind supply of photographs relating to Figure 1b. This work was supported by Key Project of Chinese National Programs for Fundamental Research and Development (973 Program, 2013CB429904), by Gansu Innovation Research Group Fund (1308RJIA002) and by National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31170369).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guoxiong Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jiecai Zhao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xin Zhao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pengshan Zhao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ruijun Duan
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Eviatar Nevo
    • 4
  • Xiaofei Ma
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Stress Physiology and Ecology in Cold and Arid RegionsLanzhouP.R. China
  2. 2.Shapotou Desert Research & Experiment Station, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouP.R. China
  3. 3.College of Eco-environmental EngineeringQinghai University XiningP.R. China
  4. 4.Institute of EvolutionUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael

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