Overview of Progress and Potentials of Improving Commonly Used Allium species in India

  • R. N. GohilEmail author
  • Veenu Kaul
Part of the Sustainable Development and Biodiversity book series (SDEB, volume 10)


The genus Allium L. is an assemblage of about 780 species distributed all over the world. Two species, Allium cepa L. and Allium sativum L., are valued throughout the world not only as spice or food but also as medicinal herbs. Both are important and nearly indispensable seasoning agents in most of the kitchens. More than 40 species of this genus are widely distributed across the temperate and alpine regions of the Indian subcontinent. Nearly all these are edible and used as vegetables, spices and condiments. While most of these are used in folk medicine some are repositories of important genes. Although no significant pest or insect problems have been recorded in the wild taxa, cultivated species are susceptible to many diseases that drastically affect their productivity. Besides diseases, physiological features like asynchronous seed maturation and shattering of seeds from the mature capsule are major problems that require remediation. For a commodity worth millions in world trade the limitations acquire great significance and need immediate attention. To mitigate these common problems, attempts have been made, within and outside the Indian subcontinent, to tailor genetic makeup of cultivated taxa by introducing useful genes from wild species. Intervarietal and interspecific hybridizations have been effective in producing new races in short period of time with desirable traits transferred from one species to another, directly or through bridge species. F1 hybrids obtained in many of these crosses are superior to regular cultivars in vigour, flavour, productivity and insect, pest and disease resistance. Techniques like protoplast fusion coupled with GISH, mutagenesis, marker assisted breeding and in vitro and/or biotechnological interventions, can help Allium breeders in making important breakthroughs through rapid multiplication and disease eradication in these taxa of high economic value. Further with the increasing awareness and availability of the databases of traditional knowledge many lesser known and underutilized species are, now, gaining attention for their potential in food, pharmaceutical and horticultural industry. The chapter, while providing a general overview of the species of Allium available in India, focuses mainly on the work done on the cultivated species.


Alliaceae Alliaceous Polymorphism Relationships Phylogeny Origin Onion Garlic Shallot 



The authors are thankful to Drs. Geeta Sharma, Lakhvinder Singh and Beetika Kohli for sharing literature on Alliums and, Mr. Sonam Tamchos, Ms. Shveta Saroop and Ms. Madhu Raina for help in typing the manuscript.


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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of JammuJammuIndia

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