Harnessing Under-utilized Crop Species- A Promising way towards Sustainability

  • Madhumita
  • S. Sheraz Mahdi
  • Suborna Roy Coudhary
  • Aziz Mujtaba Aezum


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.


Neglected and under-utilized crops (NUCS) Agro-diversity Sustainability Resilience Food and nutritional security 


  1. Ali, R. & Rab, F. (2000). Research needs and new products development from under-utilized tropical crops. Acta Hort. (ISHS) 518:241–248. Retrieved from http;// Accessed on 10 April 2014.
  2. Andika, D. O., Onyango, M. O. A., & Onyango, J. C. (2008). Role of Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea) in cropping systems in western Kenya. In J. Smartt & N. Haq (Eds.), New crops and uses: Their role in a rapidly changing world, Centre for Underutilized Crops. Southampton: University of Southampton.Google Scholar
  3. Bael Fruit. (2011). Bael Fruit –Medicinal properties and health benefits. Retrieved from properties-an…-United States. Accessed on 11 March 2014.Google Scholar
  4. Bhatnagar, N., Bhandari, D. C., Dwivedi, N. K., & Rana, R. S. (1991). Performance and potential of jojoba in the Indian arid regions. Indian Journal of Plant Genetic Resources, 4(2), 57–66.Google Scholar
  5. Chadha, K. L., & Pareek, O. P. (1988). Genetic Resources of Fruit Crops: Achievements and Gaps. Indian Journal of Plant Genetic Resources, 1(1and2), 43–48.Google Scholar
  6. Chandra, D.S. & Prakash, J. (2009). Minor fruits: a livelihood opportunity for the tribal peoples of Tripura. IInd International Symposium on pomegranate and minor including Mediterranean fruits, ISPMMF 2009.Google Scholar
  7. Chivenge, P., Mabhaudhi, T., Modi, A. T., & Mafongoya, P. (2015). The potential role of neglected and underutilized crop species as future crops under water scarce conditions in sub-Saharan Africa. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(6), 5685–5711.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Devmurari, V., Shivanand, P., Goyani, M. B., Vaghani, S., & Jivani, N. P. (2009). A review: Carissa congesta: Phytochemical constituents, traditional use and pharmacological properties. Pharmacognosy Reviews, 3(6), 375.Google Scholar
  9. Doughari, J. H. (2006). Antimicrobial activity of Tamarindus indica Linn. Tropical Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, 5(2), 597–603.Google Scholar
  10. Ebert, A. W. (2014). Potential of underutilized traditional vegetables and legume crops to contribute to food and nutritional security, income and more sustainable production systems. Sustainability, 6(1), 319–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. FACT. (1998). Ziziphus mauritiana – a valuable tree for arid and semi-arid lands. Retrieved from: Accessed on 29 June 2012.
  12. Gruere, G.P., Nagarajan, L., King, E.D.I. & Oliver. (2007). Collective action and marketing of underutilized plant species. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Series No. 69. Retrieved from: Accessed on 11 April 2014.
  13. Heal, G. (2000). Nature and the marketplace: Capturing the value of ecosystem services. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  14. Hegde, N. G. (2009). Promotion of underutilized crops for income generation and environmental sustainability. Acta Horticulturae, 806, 563–577. ISHS.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Heller, J., Begemann, F. L. & Mushonga, J. (1997). Promotion, conservation and use of underutilized neglected crops. Bambara groundnut. Proceedings of the workshop on conservation and improvement of Bambara groundnut, November 14–16, 1995.Google Scholar
  16. Jawanda, J. S., & Bal, J. S. (1978). Ber-highly paying and rich in food value. Indian Horti., 23, 19–21.Google Scholar
  17. Jigna, P., Rathish, N., & Sumitra, C. (2005). Preliminary screening of some folklore medicinal plants from preliminary screening of some folklore medicinal plants from western India for potential antimicrobial activity eastern India for potential antimicrobial activity. The Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 37(6), 408–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Joshi, V., Gautam, P. L., Mal, B., Sharma, G.D., & Kochhar, S. (2002). 33 Conservation and use of underutilized crops: An Indian perspective.Google Scholar
  19. Kamayama W Ohkawa, Chiba E, Sato K et al. (2009) Nutritional component and nitrogen fixation in seabuckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.). Acta Horticulturae 806: 309–322. ISHS.Google Scholar
  20. Khurdiya, D. S. (1980). New beverage from dried ber (Zizyphus mauritiana Lam). Journal of Food Science and Technology, 17, 158.Google Scholar
  21. Khurdiya, D. S. (2001a). Post harvest management of underutilized for fresh marketing. In Winter school on exploitation of underutilized fruits (pp. 266–274).Google Scholar
  22. Khurdiya, D. S. (2001b). Post harvest management of underutilized fruits for processed products. In Winter school on exploitation of underutilized fruits (pp. 291–298).Google Scholar
  23. Koley, T. K., Barman, K., & Asrey, R. (2011). Nutraceutical properties of jamun (Syzygium cumini L.) and its processed products. Indian Food Industries, 30(4), 34–37.Google Scholar
  24. Kumari, P., Joshi, G. C., & Tewari, L. M. (2011). Diversity and status of ethno-medicinal plants of Almora district in Uttarakhand, India. International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation, 3(7), 298–326.Google Scholar
  25. Kuo, C. G., Chen, H. M., & Sun, H. C. (1992). Membrane thermostability and heat tolerance of vegetable leaves. Adaptation of food crops to temperature and water stress, 160–168.Google Scholar
  26. Lin, B. B. (2011). Resilience in agriculture through crop diversification: Adaptive management for environmental change. Bioscience, 61(3), 183–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mabhaudhi, T., O’Reilly, P., Walker, S., & Mwale, S. (2016). Opportunities for underutilized crops in southern Africa’s post–2015 development agenda. Sustainability, 8(4), 302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Maiti, R., Jana, D., Das, U. K., & Ghosh, D. (2004). Antidiabetic effect of aqueous extract of seed of Tamarindus indica in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 92(1), 85–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Maurya, I. B., Arvindakshan, K., Sharma, S. K., & Jalwania, R. (2006, December). Status of indigenous vegetables in southern part of Rajasthan. In I international conference on indigenous vegetables and legumes. Prospectus for fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition (Vol. 752, pp. 193–196).Google Scholar
  30. Mayes, S., Basu, S., Murchie, E. et al. (2009). BAMLINK. Across disciplinary programme to enhance the role of Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea L. Verdc.) for food security in Africa and India. Acta Horticulturae 806: 39–47. ISHS.Google Scholar
  31. Mazumdar, B. C. (2004). Minor fruit crops of India: Tropical and subtropical. Daya Books.Google Scholar
  32. Padulosi, S. & Hoeschle-Zeledon, I. (2008). Crops for the future: Paths out of poverty. Strategic Plan 2009-2013, Bioversity International Regional Office for Asia, the Pacific and Oceania, Selangor, Malaysia. 16 p.Google Scholar
  33. Padulosi, S., Mal, B., Bala Ravi, S., Gowda, J., Gowda, K. T. K., Shanthakumar, G., & Dutta, M. (2009). Food security and climate change: Role of plant genetic resources of minor millets. Indian Journal of Plant Genetic Resources, 22(1), 1.Google Scholar
  34. Padulosi, S., Heywood, V., Hunter, D., & Jarvis, A. (2011). Underutilized species and climate change: current status and outlook. In Crop adaptation to climate change (1st ed., pp. 507–521). New York: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pareek, O.P. (2001). Ber. International Centre for Crops. Southampton (U.K.).Google Scholar
  36. Parimala. (2007). .Medicianal uses of jack fruit. Retrieved from Accessed on 26 July 2013.
  37. Pasiecznik, N. M., Felker, P., Harris, P. J., Harsh, L., Cruz, G., Tewari, J. C., & Maldonado, L. J. (2001). The’Prosopis Juliflora’-‘Prosopis Pallida’Complex: A monograph (Vol. 172). Coventry: HDRA.Google Scholar
  38. Patti, A.K. (2010). Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophylla). By Abhay Kumar Patti, Odisha, India, Retrieved from: Acta Hort., (ISHS) 518:233–236.
  39. Pattnaik, S., Subramanyam, V. R., Bapaji, M., & Kole, C. R. (1996). Antibacterial and antifungal activity of aromatic constituents of essential oils. Microbios, 89(358), 39–46.Google Scholar
  40. Ravi, B. S. (2004). Neglected millets that save the poor from starvation. LEISA India, 6(1), 1–8.Google Scholar
  41. Ravi, S. B., Hrideek, T. K., Kumar, A. K., Prabhakaran, T. R., Mal, B., & Padulosi, S. (2010). Mobilizing neglected and underutilized crops to strengthen food security and alleviate poverty in India.Google Scholar
  42. Resilience Alliance. (2008). Website:
  43. Swaminathan MS. (1999). Enlarging the basis of food security: role of underutilized species. In: Proceedings of the International Consultation organized by the Genetic Resources Policy Committee (GRPC) of the CGIAR, M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, India, 17–19 February 1999, p. 22.Google Scholar
  44. Thakur, M. (2014). Underutilized food crops: Treasure for the future India. Food Science Research Journal, 5(2), 174–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Upadhyay, H.D. (2009). Sustainable conservation and utilization of genetic resources of two underutilized crops-finger millet and foxtail millet- to enhance productivity, nutrition and income in Africa and Asia. Monograph. .Retrieved from Accessed on 12 May 2014.
  46. Ved, P. (1991). In S. S. Samant, U. Dhar, & P. LMS (Eds.), Indian medicinal plant: Current status in Himalayan medicinal plants: Potential and prospects (pp. 45–63). Nainital: Gramodaya Prakashan.Google Scholar
  47. Vohra, M. M., & De, N. N. (1963). Comparative cardiotonic activity of Carissa carandas L. and Carissa spinarum A. DC. The Indian Journal of Medical Research, 51, 937–940.Google Scholar
  48. Wang, S. T., & Ebert, A. W. (2013). Breeding of leafy amaranth for adaptation to climate change. In R. Holmer, G. Linwattana, P. Nath, & J. D. H. Keatinge (Eds.), High value vegetables in Southeast Asia: Production, supply and demand; Proceedings of the SEAVEG 2012. Regional Symposium (pp. 36–43). Tainan/Taiwan: AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Madhumita
    • 1
  • S. Sheraz Mahdi
    • 2
  • Suborna Roy Coudhary
    • 3
  • Aziz Mujtaba Aezum
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of ExtensionBihar Agricultural University, SabourBhagalpurIndia
  2. 2.Mountain Research Centre for Field CropsSher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of KashmirKhudwani, Anantnag, KashmirIndia
  3. 3.Department of AgronomyBihar Agricultural University, SabourBhagalpurIndia
  4. 4.Department of Soil Science, SKUAST-K, ShalimarSrinagarIndia

Personalised recommendations