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The use of the term "underutilized" or "underused" raises inevitably questions on what it is exactly meant by such terms, having thus repercussions on the understanding of which are those species falling into such a category. Some definitions need therefore to be given in order to avoid possible mis-interpretations.
According to IPGRI (Padulosi 1998) underutilized crops are those species grown in local production systems, where they are highly adapted to a range of ecological niches. What makes them different from other crops (‘major’) is the fact that their economic potentials have been poorly addressed, thus their role is confined into mostly traditional/local uses only. The word "underutilized" however does not explicitly carry with it those concepts that need to be stressed when addressing these species: more specifically, it does not highlight the fact that these species are often poorly addressed by research and conservation efforts. Another term, "neglected", is therefore often used to stress such points, but this word itself is generally interpreted as loaded with some negative significance ("if it is neglected it must be for a good reasons.") as it has been recently reiterated during a recent IPGRI-EUCARPIA Workshop on underutilized species held few days ago in Viterbo, Italy). The term "underutilized" is therefore generally preferred over "neglected". The use of the term "minor crops" is also rather frequent in
literature and aims usually at stressing that the level of use (extent of cultivation and/or total yield = a major crop can be certainly a crop whose yield is small but its economic impact very relevant) of the species is considerably lower than that of major crops, whose importance in the global agricultural scenario is easily understood.
Underutilized species have never commanded great attention from national and international agencies /centres dealing with improvement, use and conservation of plant genetic resources. The core argument that is being sustained in favor of their promotion today, is that such species are indeed being cultivated and used in small areas or harvested directly from the wild by indigenous communities as source of food, feed, shelter, medicine, contributing thus to improve in various ways the quality of life in traditional agricultural and forest systems. They are therefore useful species (and not just crops) and contribute consistently to the well being of humankind. It is such a contribution to our life that need to be acknowledged while proper measures must be taken in order to ensure that these genetic resources are properly safeguarded and employed for today’s and future’s generations.
The status of conservation of underutilized species raises great concerns within the plant genetic resources conservation community in view of the fact that over the last twenty years efforts spent to conserve these resources have been focusing only on major crops, due to their greater economic interests and global diffusion. Extensive collections to widen the genetic diversity of such staple crops were needed to allow breeders to produce those high yielding varieties, which ultimately contributed to the green
revolution (Pistorius 1997). Such conservation activities contributed to safe landraces and local varieties of major staple crops, which were paradoxically under threat of erosion by the same improved varieties distributed to farmers all over the world (Fowler and Mooney 1990). The proper conservation state of underutilized species in germplasm collections around the world is also questioned as to whether appropriate measures have been taken so far for their rejuvenation, multiplication and evaluation, in view of the low level of priority that these have received in both international and national contexts.
SCOPE OF UNDERUTILIZED HORTICULTURAL CROPS
In North Eastern and western ghats region, there are wastelands of different kinds viz. sand dunes, ravines, acidic soils, marshy and marginal lands, which are unfit for supporting cultivation of high input demanding crops. Such lands can easily be put to use for growing low input crops in order to diversify the present day agriculture, which is so inevitable in view of the increasing population pressure and fast depletion of natural resources as well as the growing and changing human needs in the region.
The average productivity of the horticultural crops is just half of the national productivity. As grain farming is proving un-remunerative in the undulating topography of hilly tracts, which is deprived of irrigation facilities, despite government of India’s has been putting forth endeavuors to uplift the region, vast potential remains unexploited. It becomes possible to exploit the untapped potential of the region through location specific horticulture and subsequently expanding the
area under horticultural crops. Production of UUHC can also be increased through adoption of scientific technologies.
Apart from nutritive value, underutilized horticultural crops are particularly more important for medicinal properties and famous for the retentive value in Ayurvedic medicine. Mostly people are familiar with the medicinal properties of locally grown horticultural crops.
(i) Zantedeschia Common names: White or common arum lily Family: Araceae This is an old fashioned, but very rewarding garden plant. Zantedeschia is named after Professor Zantedeschi, probably Giovanni Zantedeschi, 1773-1846, an Italian physician and botanist, although there is some uncertainty about this. The name aethiopica is not directly related to Ethiopia. In classical times it meant south of the known world i.e. south of Egypt and Libya. Several southern African plants were given this specific epiphet early on.Although called the arum lily, it is neither an arum ( the genus Arum) nor a lily ( genus Lilium). But it is associated with the lily as a symbol of purity and these elegant flowers have graced many bridal bouquets, as seen in this picture of a South African bride in 1934. It is an excellent cutflower and lasts a long time in water. Nowadays there are other forms of this species, which will enliven an old theme. The 'Marshmallow' with a
creamy pink spathe (outer "petal" which is actually a modified leaf) and rose-pink throat and the 'Green Goddess'with a green and white spathe. There is also an attractive form with leaves spotted white. The striking arum lily "flower" is actually many tiny flowers arranged in a complex spiral pattern on the central column (spadix). The tiny flowers are arranged in male and female zones on the spadix. The top 7 cm are male flowers and the lower 1.8 cm are female. If you look through a hand-lens you may see the stringy pollen emerging from the male flowers, which consist largely of anthers. The female flowers have an ovary with a short stalk above it, which is the style (where the pollen is received). The spadix is surrounded by the white or coloured spathe. According to Marloth, the whiteness of the spathe is not caused by pigmentation, but is an optical effect produced by numerous airspaces beneath the epidermis. The genus is restricted to the African continent with seven species recognised: Zantedeschia aethiopica, Z. albomaculata, Z. elliottiana, Z. jucunda, Z. odoratum, Z. pentlandii and Z. rehmannii. The common arum is found from the Western Cape through the Eastern Cape, and into the Northern Province. It is evergreen or deciduous depending on the habitat and rainfall regime. In the Western Cape it is dormant in summer and in the summer rainfall areas it is dormant in winter. It will remain evergreen in both areas if growing in marshy conditions, which remain wet all year around. The white arum is very easily cultivated by seed or division. Seed should be sown in spring. The fruit is ripe when it has turned yellowish and is soft. The pulp should be removed and the seed dried off. The grey seeds can be sown in clean seedling mix and covered lightly. Take care not
to sow them too thickly as they will need space to form the fleshy roots. The fleshy rootstock can be divided when the plant is dormant, it should be re-planted about 5 cm deep. It may also be propagated by division where the plant is not dormant, use a sharp spade to cut out a section for replanting. The white arum may be used as a marginal plant along streams, or on the edge of a pond. Plant in partial shade if there is no permanent water. It can be planted as a foliage plant in deep shade under trees but will not flower well in this position. It is fast growing and likes very rich, well-drained conditions. The rhizome is large and eaten by wild pigs and porcupines and the ripe fruit enjoyed by birds. Traditionally the plant is boiled and eaten. Raw plant material causes swelling of the throat because of microscopic, sharp calcium oxalate crystals. The leaves are also traditionally used as a poultice and a treatment for headaches. Zantedeschia is a genus of twenty-eight species of in the family araceae
native to southern Africa from north to "Malawi" .The name of the genus was given as a tribute to Italian botanist Giovanni Zantedeschi" "1846" by the German botanist "Kurt Sprengel" 1766- "1833". Common names include Arum lily for Z. aethiopica, calla, and calla lily for Z. elliottiana and Z. rehmannii although it is neither a true "Lily" , nor "Arum" or "Calla" (related genera in "Araceae"). It is also often erroneously spelled as "cala lily". It has often been used in many paintings, and is visible in many of Diego Rivera's works of art. The Zantedeschia are "Rhizome herbaceous perennial plant" growing to 1-2.5 m tall with "Leaf" 15-45 cm long. The inflorescence is a showy white, yellow or pink spathe shaped like a funnel with a yellow, central, finger-like spadix.The Zantedeschia species
are very poisonous, capable of killing livestock and children. "All parts of the plant are toxic, and produce irritation and swelling of the mouth and throat, acute vomiting and diarrhoea."
• • • • • • •
Zantedeschia aethiopica - Giant white arum lily or common arum lily Zantedeschia odorata Zantedeschia albomaculata - spotted arum lily Zantedeschia elliottiana- yellow or golden arum lily Zantedeschia jucunda Zantedeschia pentlandii Zantedeschia rehmannii- pink arum lily
(ii) Narcissus The narcissus is in third place of the most cultivated bulbous plants and is grown on a total area of 1800 hectares. The narcissus has always been a highly favoured bulbous plant and has earned a permanent place in the flower bulb sector. Still commonly cultivated are the trumpet and large-cupped narcissi, although there are many, many other interesting kinds of narcissi (or daffodils). In total, there are about 2000 registered varieties! Even so, only about fifty are commonly available. The colour for narcissi is predominantly yellow, but white, pink and orange occur, too. They are used for both planting in the garden or park and for cut flower production. The majority of these bulbs are used for forcing in small pots. For flower bulb production, narcissus bulbs are planted in the autumn and lifted in the summer.
(iii) Hyacinth As one of the bulbous plants cultivated almost exclusively in the Netherlands, the hyacinth is another bulb with a long tradition in the flower bulb sector and has always been a favourite for forcing in pots during the winter months. During the last 20 years, hyacinths have also been used as cut flowers. And planting them in gardens and parks has been done for centuries. Of all the bulbous plants, the hyacinth is most cherished for its fragrance. Its colours are predominantly pastel: pink, light blue, soft red, white, light yellow and light orange, but brighter colours such as purple and violet are available as well.The land under cultivation with hyacinths has gradually increased to the present 1100 hectares. For flower bulb production, hyacinth bulbs are planted in the autumn and lifted in the summer.
(iv) Day lily:
The daylily is a perennial plant with a beautiful flower and can be used as cut flower.It is native to China where its buds are traditionally used for cooking. This food vegetable is called golden needles. The root can be used to brew wine and the leaf for fibre production (paper industry).Daylily can be cultivated nearly all over China. The Guansu, Hunan and Zhejiang provinces are most important production areas. The market decreased recently due tothe inappropriate processing technology of the daylily buds, which increases the chemical residue in the products turning it harmful to human health. Therefore a new processing technology needs to be developed.
The aboveground part of daylily cannot pass frost while the underground tolerates temperature as low as -49°C. The suitable temperature for growth is 10-20°C. The daylily can adapt to various soil types and tolerates dry and non-fertile soil. The plant can also tolerate shading when interplanted with fruit trees but the production would be reduced. The daylily bud is very nutritive and healthy. The daylily flower and root are used in Chinese traditional medicines as they are good for soothing the nerves, digestion and clearing the eyes. It is also helpful in curing hepatitis, hydropsy, diarrhea, jaundice and high blood pressure etc. The flower opens in the afternoon 2-8pm and fades before 11am on the next day. The daylily can produce buds for several decades. Its propagation mainly depends on clonal growth and seldom on seeds.
The government should encourage the development of the daylily planting, the product processing and selling as well as the integration of scientific research, production and marketing. Big enterprises should be fostered to drive the general development of the whole industry. The management mechanisms in enterprises should be strengthened and a famous brand of great quality should be established. The investment in scientific research should be increased and preservation technologies for the fresh vegetable as well as processing technologies for the dried vegetable should be improved. The production and processing of the daylily buds should be encouraged with special focus on their quality as organic and health care product. That could increase the competitiveness of these products on international markets. A strategy should be developed to protect and conserve the germ plasm resource of the daylily. The standardization of the production should be reinforced and the food
safety of daylily buds products ensured.
The fundamental database of nutritional and functional components should be improved and completed by the daylily flower buds. More research on the functions of daylily in health care could support the development of health foods with medicinal function. Research on the preservation and the detoxication of fresh daylily flower buds should be promoted.New varieties of high quality should be developed for the product processing to increase the commercial values of daylily flower buds. On the one side, the dehydration technology should be improved. On the other side, the processing of fresh daylily buds flower should be adapted to meet the market requests.
Standardized production systems should be established and popularized to assure the food safety and quality. Plant germ plasms pool of daylily should be established and a breeding base for seedlings should be constructed to enable the innovative utilization of resources and provide the farmers with eminent seedlings. This can help to increase the production and the quality of daylily flower bud products.
(v) Doryanthes excelsa (Giant lily) This monocot species is increasingly sought after for its long-lasting, enormous flower and its versatile strap-like leaves. Currently most of this product is picked from wild populations. The major limitations with the commercial cultivation are the long,
variable, time period to flowering and a lack of understanding of the mechanisms controlling flowering. Recent research is trialling tissue culture of floral parts as a method of inducing rapid flowering. This research needs to be continued further to determine whether precocious flowering can be induced. (vi) Protea
Protea is a large genus with 136 species of which 70 are distributed in the southern hemisphere temperate zones and the balance distributed in southern hemisphere subtropical to tropical zones, with 3 extending above the equator into the northern tropics (Rao 1971). Of the 117 species native to the African continent, 82 are from South Africa (Vogts 1982). A recent account of Protea species in Southern Africa lists 90 species and numerous subspecies (Robelo 1995). Linnaeus named the genus Protea in 1735 after the Greek god Proteus, who, according to legend, was able to transform his shape and appearance into numerous animate and inanimate forms at will (Robelo 1995). It was from the name Protea that the family name Proteaceae was assigned by the French botanist Jussieu (Rousseau 1970). The natural habitat of Protea ranges in elevation from sea level to over 2000 m. In South Africa a rich diversity of species inhabit the well-drained, moderately acid, low fertility, granite soils from Cape Town to the Table Mountain areas up to 1300 m (Parvin et al. 1973).
The genus is characterized by large bracts, often brightly colored, surrounding a composite type flower. The bracts are smooth or pubescent, with many species having bracts fringed with a dark "fur" lending a tactile as well as visual appeal. The range of colors includes red, pink, yellow, white, and occasionally green. The most widely recognized species in the genus is Protea cynaroides, the King Protea, the national flower of South Africa. It has flower heads up to 30 cm across, with widely spaced bracts arranged around a peak of flowers that vary in color from near white to soft silvery-pink to deep rose pink to crimson, in a few selected cultivars.
Many natural variants of P. cynaroides can be placed into three South African ecotypes. Those from the eastern cape and southern coastal plain have long leaves on long stems that terminate with relatively small but wide-open flower heads. They are very attractive but difficult to pack. The plants are vigorous and bear 10 to 20 heads per plant. Variants from the Outeniqua mountains region bear large bowl-shaped rose-colored flower heads on thick stems. The heads are more easily packed because the bracts do not flare out. Average flower head yield is five to eight per plant. The variants from the Western Cape region are slow growing and average only about four heads per plant, but are described by Vogts (1980) as beautifully goblet-shaped. A miniature form of P. cynaroides, with flower heads the size of a typical pincushion protea, offers much promise for expanded florist use of this species. Protea cynaroides generally show good resistance to Phytophthora root rot (Von Broembsen and Brits 1986).
The rose-spoon protea, P. eximia, gets its common name from the long spathulate inner bracts that are widely splayed and easily distinguish this large flowered species from others (Vogts 1982). These bracts range in color from pink to orange-brown. Awns extending from the perianth have purple-black velvety hairs. Plants generally range in height from 2 to 5 m, are sparsely branched, and flower from early winter through late spring (Robelo 1995). A tall tree-like variant reaches peak flowering in summer (Vogts 1982).
Protea compacta has lanky flower stems on a stiffly upright, sparsely branched shrub that grows to 3.5 m tall. The rich pink bracts, with their light-reflecting fine-hairfringed margins are longer than the cup-shaped flower heads. The prominent flower heads, unobscured by foliage, make fine winter cutflowers (Vogts 1982).
Protea can be propagated from seed, with the resulting variation expected of cross-pollinated heterozygous materials. Given the availability of clonal selections, the method of choice among progressive commercial growers is to propagate from cuttings. Terminal and sub-terminal cuttings are made from the current season's mature growth. Robust cuttings of 20 to 25 cm in length root readily, for most cultivars. Longer cuttings may be taken if the grower desires to have lower branches well above ground level. Removing half of each leaf of long leaf cultivars is a common practice. An IBA auxin treatment of 4000 to 8000 ppm is beneficial. The rooting medium should be very well aerated but not allowed to dry. Mixtures of 25% to 50% peat with the balance being polystyrene or perlite has given good results. Rooting is generally done under standard
mist bed conditions. An approved fungicide sprayed over the cuttings following planting can prevent infections. Rooting time is variable among species, with P. cynaroides rooting quickly and P. neriifolia often taking many weeks (Mathews 1981).
When selecting a production site, good soil drainage is the most important requirement for protea production. Deep soils that allow expanded root development and can store a good supply of water and nutrients are preferred, but shallow soils can be suitable if drainage is rapid and frequent irrigation can be provided (Claassens 1981)
Relatively low concentrations of nutrients are required for normal growth of proteas. Most species react favorably to nitrogen, particularly in the ammonium form, while most are intolerant of amounts of phosphorus that would be considered moderate for nonproteaceous plants. Protea plants seem to have a very effective mechanism to scavenge phosphorous from soils with low phosphorus status (Claassens 1981, 1986). Cresswell (1991) produced a tissue analysis standard for assessing the appropriate phosphorus status for two Protea cultivars. Only the desirable ranges are reported in Table 3. Values lower or higher than those reported here were considered low to deficient or high to toxic, respectively.
Leucospermum species are evergreen woody perennials with growth habits that range from small trees to spreading shrubs to prostrate ground covers. The most widely grown
species are floriferous, spreading shrubs on which relatively short-stemmed inflorescences are borne in the spring. Horticulturists have had to develop management practices to improve stem length and straightness for their use as cut flowers. Rourke (1972) and Jacobs (1985) describe the inflorescence as a capitulum that develops from an axillary rather than a terminal bud, but that appears to arise distally. Inflorescences may be solitary, as in L. cordifolium, L. lineare, and L. vestitum, or in clusters (conflorescences), as in L. oleifolium, L. tottum, and L. mundii. The individual florets consist of a perianth formed by four fused perianth segments, one of which separates from the other three as the flower opens. The perianth curls back to display a prominent style; the striking appearance of the whole inflorescence of open flowers resembles a pincushion—thus one of the common names is pincushion protea. The styles, perianth, and involucral bracts may be white, yellow, pink, orange, or red and the combinations are responsible for the popularity of the pincushion proteas as cutflowers. Although most of the Leucospermums are indigenous to nutrient-poor, coarse, acidic, sandstone-derived soils, they seem adaptable to a variety of soil types within a narrow range of pH and fertility levels. This is evidenced by their culture in several regions of southern Africa, southern California, Israel, Australia, and in the volcanic soils of Hawaii and the Canary Islands (Criley 1998).
Propagation of the commercial cultivars of Leucospermum is by cuttings, of which most root readily. While cuttings can be rooted at almost any physiological stage of development, a preferred cutting is the recently matured new growth, known as a semi-
hardwood cutting (Malan 1992). This type of material is gathered in autumn after shoot growth terminates.
The production period for Leucospermum is late winter to late spring. Parvin (1974) reported that 65% to 75% of the total crop of L. cordifolium 'Hawaiian Sunburst' was harvested from Dec. through Feb. in Hawaii. They are also high yielding. During a three-year study, beginning with 6-year-old plants, the per plant yields averaged 600 to 650 flowers. Research on postharvest handling practices has shown that the pincushion protea will tolerate cool, dry, long-term storage and still provide a useful vaselife. L. cordifolium flowers that were cooled and hydrated at 1°C in water, wrapped in newsprint and bagged in plastic film withstood periods of three and four weeks at 1°C storage, and after rehydration, possessed an average vaselife of 8 days (Jones and Faragher 1990). Downs and Reihana (1986) found significant varietal differences in vaselife following a period of simulated transport, with the New Zealand cultivar 'Harry Chittick' at 35.5 days, a Hawaii hybrid of L. lineare × L. cordifolium at 29.7 days, and 'Veldfire', a South African hybrid at 16.9 days.
While a number of Proteaceae may be grown as potted plants, the Leucospermums, with their relative ease of rooting and attractive floral display, have the greatest potential (Sacks and Resendiz 1996). Criley (1998) reported that budded cuttings flowered soon after rooting, adding confirmation to their potential as potted plants, and proposed that stock plants be manipulated to achieve stronger branches for this use.
Leucospermum species suitable for potted plants are of two types: those having a single large inflorescence, such as L. cordifolium, L. lineare, and L. tottum; and those with small multiple inflorescences (conflorescences) such as L. oleifolium, L. muirii, and L. mundii (Brits et al. 1992; Ackerman et al. 1995; Brits 1995a). It is important to select material that will root rapidly and support flower initiation and development on a young root system (Ackermen and Brits 1991; Brits et al. 1992).
The South African genus Leucadendron contains about 60 species, collectively referred to as the conebushes. They are easily identified since they are dioecious, having plants of separate male and female sexes. Both sexes have terminal flowerheads. Female plants produce woody cones containing fruits and seeds while male plants do not produce cones. The cones on female plants consist of spirally arranged floral bracts which partially cover the cone. Male plants are often larger and more heavily branched and may have smaller leaves than female plants (Robelo 1995).As with most Proteaceae, the Leucadendrons grow best in areas with light, well-drained soils with low concentrations of dissolved salts, an adequate supply of fresh water, temperatures in the range of 7°C to 27°C, and frequent if not regular light winds. Leucadendrons require an acid soil with a pH not exceeding 5.0. Sandy soils with some humus provide the best growing medium (Vogts 1980).
Several species are cultivated commercially for their decorative foliage, including L. argenteum, L. discolor, L. galpinii, L. laureolum, L. salicifolium, L. salignum, L. tinctum, and L. uliginosum. Leucadendron argenteum, the 'Silver Tree', can grow to a 8 m tall tree if left unmanaged. Its leaves are grey-green with abundant fine satiny silver hairs that glisten in sunlight. It is grown for its long-lasting cut foliage, and also makes an attractive landscape plant. Its natural habitat is arid, and in cultivation it will succumb to overwatering, soil fungi, and nematodes. Leucadendron discolor, harvested in winter and spring, ranges in color from light to dark green to yellow to red, and is a spreading bush up to 1.5 m high. Leucadendron laureolum is chartreuse to bright yellow when flowering in winter and spring while L. salignum (formerly L. adscendens) is bright red, becoming more intensely colored as temperatures decrease. A particularly outstanding cultivar is the female selection L. salignum 'Safari Sunset'. Leucadendron uliginosum has elegant, slender shoots covered with numerous shiny, silvery leaves (Vogts 1980, Kepler 1988).
The genetic variation in Leucadendron is vast and largely untapped for breeding purposes (Littlejohn et al. 1995), although a few hybrids have been introduced to the commercial trade, mostly from South Africa. In addition to their highly colorful, easily packaged, long and long lasting cut stems, a characteristic of many Leucadendrons that makes them commercially important is their potential for very high yields. Pruned and managed L. 'Silvan Red', in a 3 year study at 3 locations averaged 265 marketable stems per plant per year (Barth et al. 1996). This cultivar can be harvested in the fall as a redfoliaged stem, and in the winter as a tricolor stem with yellow, red, and green foliar
bracts. Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset', a selection of New Zealand origin, is probably the most widely grown commercial cultivar, with extensive plantings in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Israel.
Although more widely known as commercial cut foliages and landscape plants, Leucadendrons can be grown as colorful potted "flowering" plants. The male L. discolor 'Sunset' naturally flowers profusely in early spring with colorful flower-heads. Israeli research has demonstrated that flowering potted plants of 'Sunset' can be produced in 3–5 months by rooting large branched cuttings with initiated flowers. The basal stems of branched 15 cm long cuttings were dipped in a 4,000 ppm IBA solution prior to sticking in a styrofoam/peat medium under intermittent mist and 25% reduced natural light. Rooting began in 4 weeks. The stage of development of the flower-head at rooting was critical for the cutting's further development into a flowering potted plant. If not fully initiated as floral buds, the meristem aborted or reverted to the vegetative state. However, when cuttings were taken at the right stage of floral initiation, colorful flowering potted plants were produced in 3–5 months. Conventional technology for producing potted flowering plants of L. discolor by rooting small unbranched vegetative cuttings, growing them to the appropriate size, retarding them chemically, and bringing them to flower, would take 2 years or longer (Ben-Jaacov et al., 1986). The potential for using this technology to produce attractive Leucadendron flowering potted plants for the commercial nursery trade is significant.
The fourth largest export wildflower crop of Australia (Sedgley 1996), the genus Banksia is named for the famous botanist, Sir Joseph Banks. Seventy-six taxa have been described under 2 sub-genera, 3 sections, and 13 series (Sedgley 1998). Banksia are evergreen, woody perennials with growth habits that range from prostrate groundhuggers to trees. Most of the species are found in the south-west with the remainder along the southern and eastern coasts and tablelands. Nearly all have ornamental features that confer horticultural potential, whether as fresh or dried cut flowers, cut foliages, or in the landscape (Elliott and Jones 1982; Joyce 1998; Parvin et al. 1973; Sedgley 1998; Wrigley and Fagg 1996).
The most popular cut flower types bear their cylindrical flower spikes terminally, but a few terminal-flowering selections have been made of axillary bearers (Sedgely 1998). Some species produce attractive flowerheads upright on horizontal branches and would need considerable management to be suitable for the commercial markets. Although many commercial plantings are produced from seed and show considerable variability, progress has been made in cultivar development (Fuss and Sedgley 1991; Sedgley et al. 1991; Sedgley 1991, 1995a,b,c,d). Seed germination is reliable, but not for the hybrids, and seed supplies are limited. Banksia seed is produced in a hard follicle that often requires heat or heat followed by immersion in water to cause it to open. Seedlings are susceptible to damping off and should be germinated in a sterile well-drained medium. Germination requires 21 to 90 days at 20°–25°C (Elliot and Jones 1982). The optimum medium temperature can range from a constant 10° to 25°C or fluctuate by 10°
to 15°C (Bennell and Barth 1986). Transplanting is done as soon as the seedling is large enough to handle.
Isopogon is native to temperate Australian regions, with the main distribution in southwestern Australia. Many are coastal or near coastal in habitat and grow in welldrained, highly leached sandy or lateritic soils and gravels or clay loams. They range from sea level to moderate altitudes and cope with a wide temperature range down to – 7°C, where damage occurs. Full sun is the preferred light environment, but some tolerate semi-shade (Elliot and Jones 1990). They offer some interesting, hardy plant materials for the landscape, and possibly for the cutflower trade. Most of the 35 described species are temperate zone shrubs of 1 to 2.5 m tall, but a few can grow into small trees (Foreman 1997). Most species are small to medium-sized shrubs while others are dwarf, spreading undershrubs. A number of species are adapted to container culture. Cone- or drumstick-shaped flower clusters, of white to yellow to pink to mauve, are borne terminally or in the upper leaf axils. Flowering is chiefly in the spring months. A few species have good vase life and are grown commercially in Australia. Among species with cutflower potential are the winter-flowering I. cuneatus, and spring-flowering I. latifolius and I. formosus (Salinger 1985; Elliot and Jones 1990; Foreman 1997). While their cones are decorative, the scales are often shed with the seed.
Seed is not plentiful because it is often lost when the scales dehisce from the cone. Fresh seed, sown shallowly in a moist medium, germinates in 20 to 90 days. One pregermination recommendation is to lightly singe the seed with a flame (Elliot and Jones 1990). Cutting propagation is usually successful when aided by hormone rooting powders.
These Australian natives (120 species) have a variable growth habit, ranging from prostrate shrubs to small trees. Foliage characteristics range from soft and needlelike to tough and prickly. The flowerhead resembles a shaving brush surrounded by basal bracts. Flower colors are mainly in the yellow to orange to bronze shades. Their potential as cutflowers needs further evaluation, but some species, such as D. formosa, dry nicely and could be added to this niche market (Joyce 1998). Among the recommended cut flower species are D. formosa, D. praemorsa, and D. quercifolia (Elliot and Jones 1984). Many species have foliage so spiny that they are not suitable for floral purposes (Salinger 1985). Propagation is generally by sowing fresh or stored seed into a well-drained, loose medium; however, seed-feeding insects often render viable seed scarce (Elliot and Jones 1984). Pregermination treatments do not seem necessary (Cavanaugh 1994). Germination times range from 3 weeks to 3 months with an average of 5 to 8 weeks. Transplanting can be done fairly early, when seedlings have attained 50–75 mm in height.
Cutting and grafting propagation successes have been reported for some species (Cavanaugh 1994).
Five species of Telopea have been described, and a number of hybrids have been released (Dennis 1991; Nixon and Payne 1996; Wrigley and Fagg 1996). They are native to acid, infertile, well-drained soils in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. As small trees or managed shrubs, they have both landscape value and commercial cutflower use. All species produce terminal, brilliant to rose red (occasional pink, white or yellow) inflorescences up to 15 cm in diameter on stems of up to 1 m length. The florets are arranged spirally on elongated cones subtended by an involucre of similarly colored bracts. Telopea speciosissima and T. oreades are the principal species for commercial flower production. Unlike other proteas, there is little by-pass by lower shoots. Plants tend to be upright and vigorous.
The most important species, T. speciosissima is known as the waratah and is the floral emblem of New South Wales, Australia. Although blooms were originally wildcollected, commercial production has increased in Australia as well as in New Zealand, US (Hawaii), Israel, and South Africa (Offord 1996). Australian production has been reported at 20,000 to 50,000 stems/ha five years after establishment in high density plantings (Worrall 1994), with annual production estimated at 0.6 to 1.7 million stems
(Worrall, cited in Offord 1996). The plants are long-lived and capable of production for many years with good management.
Like many other South African proteas, the genus Serruria (50 species) occur in well-drained nutrient-poor soils of the winter-rainfall area (1000 mm) of the Cape Floral Kingdom of South Africa. Their distribution is limited to small, specific localities within this region (Rebelo 1995), and many are endangered because of loss of habitat (Worth and van Wilgen 1988). The serrurias are small shrubs (prostrate habit to 2 m tall) with fine, feathery foliage and prominent, white to pink bracts subtending the individual flowers borne multiply on one to 11 capitula. Commonly called spiderheads in their native South Africa, serruria inflorescences may be solitary or consist of clusters of small flowerheads. The principal species in commercial culture are S. florida (Blushing Bride) and S. rosea and their hybrids.
The cutflower serrurias tend to be upright growers. The globose flowerheads range from 3 to 5.5 cm in diameter but appear larger because of the bracts. Flowering occurs in the late winter to early spring, and is known to be stimulated by the long days of the preceding summer and fall (Malan and Brits 1990). Initiation and early development required about 6 weeks and another 10 weeks was required to reach anthesis. Little work has been reported on improving vase life, which is about 7 to 10 days following cutting. The flowers also dry well (Matthews and Carter 1993).
Serruria potted plants have good floral display qualities and can be produced in less than one year (Malan and Brits 1990). Cuttings should be taken during the high light, long days of early spring and summer as induced cuttings taken in the fall had low rooting percentages (Ackerman et al. 1995). The flowering period ranges from 30 to 55 days under outdoor conditions. Short durations of darkness as in shipping are not damaging to the post-harvest life of potted plants. Growth retardants such as paclobutrazol inhibit shoot elongation, while ethephon increases branching and branch angle (Brits 1995).
Known as the Pagoda flowers in their native South Africa, Mimetes species bear large terminal flowerheads containing smaller headlets (capitula) bearing few to many flowers. Leaves and bracts subtending these headlets are often brightly colored and may curl around to clasp the flowers. Some species in the Silver Pagoda group bear silvery hairs, making them attractive for this character rather than for colored bracts. Most of the 13 species of Mimetes are rare and found in isolated habitats of the south and southwestern Cape (Rourke 1984), frequently at high elevations in low to moderate rainfall areas. Most are found on sandstone-derived soils, but a few are found in moist peaty soils along marshes and swamps (Rebelo 1995). Coastal species such as M. cucullatus also withstand salt winds. Repeated burning maintains the shrub in a rounded form with numerous upright unbranched stems arising from a woody, persistent lignotuber (Rourke 1984). Flowering is most profuse on the vigorous young growth, suggesting that commercial flower production will be dependent upon efficient pruning.
Mimetes cucullatus is one of the more widely distributed species. It flowers year around but most heavily during the fall and winter months and offers potential as a cutflower as it produces 30 cm stems tipped with scarlet red and yellow bracts. It is said to have good vase life as a cutflower (Matthews and Carter 1993). It is a long-lived shrub once established and tolerates heavy pruning. Other Mimetes species with attractive flowerheads are reportedly short-lived although the seed remains viable for many years, ready to germinate when the natural habitat is cleared by fire (Rebelo 1995). Cultivation of Mimetes requires well-drained, acid soils with some organic matter. Studies of plant management are still needed. Propagation is by seed or semi-hardwood cuttings taken in the fall (Matthews and Carter 1993). (xv) Ornamental Gingers Zingiberaceae species have not been fully exploited for ornamental purposes. Before the forests a further depleted of their ginger diversity, there is a dire need for the exploitation of wild species as the geography and soil condition of some areas are favorable for commercial growing of a variety of ornmental. Zingibearaceae including the mountain species. In the western countries, especially the United States of America, there is increase in the popularity of Zingibeareacae as decorative plants in indoor gardens, landscapes and floral arrangements. Native species can be exploited for these decorative purposes. Globba atrosanguiena Teysm. & Binn. Which grows wild in Sabah (Danum Valley) is already quite popular as an attractive pot plant. Research should be developed with the aim of producing improved varieties and hybrids by natural or artificial hybridization. In a Costa Rican commercial farm, various shades of pink or to
red forms of Alpinia purpurata and Etlingera elatior and planted for cut flower industry. Flowering, however, is not always uniform for many gingers. Therefore research should also be geared at inducing frequent flowering taking into consideration the edaphic and ecological factors. Hedychiums of the family Zingiberaceae make excellent ornamental plants and the following are rare and threatened ornamental species of this group: Hedychium luteum, H. aureum, H. radiatum, H. robustum, H. dekianum. (xv) Eriostemon In the last few years most species have been removed from the genus Eriostemon and placed in Philotheca. This group provides a number of species suitable for use as cut flowers. Eriostemon australasius is an excellent cut flower, with flowers that close and remain on the plant after pollination. The flower is attractive for several weeks. Current research on this species is evaluating the use of grafting as a means of introducing new varieties into cultivation in a form that may be grown in a range of soils. Of the other forms, one of the most promising is the Philotheca ‘Flowergirl’. This variety appears to be adaptable to a wide range of soil types and is less prone to petal drop than other philothecas. It shows quite promising early results for export shipments. Excellent breeding and selection opportunities exist for these plants. (xvi) Ozothamnus diosmifolius (Riceflower)
This plant is a member of the daisy family and produces terminal heads of white or pink blooms. Riceflower has become a very large crop in Australian terms, largely due to a combination of effort from growers and the Department of Primary Industry,
Queensland. However, the excellent varieties selected for Queensland have often been unsuitable for growers in the southern states, with large problems encountered with the fine-leaf forms.This crop has now reached a commodity status and there is great demand for new forms and related product. Nematodes and root diseases remain major problems, along with the larvae of Acalolepta argentatus (Crofton Weed Borer), which cause significant damage to the crown of the plant and can be a major problem in established plantings along the coast of NSW and Queensland.
(xvii) Xerochrysum bracteatum,syn. Bracteantha bracteata It is commonly known as (Strawflowers, Paper daisies). Often ignored in the past because of a lack of range of colour forms and because it is perceived to have a low value per stem, this species has started to come into its own, particularly with the development of a range of sturdy, long-stemmed, large-headed forms. A greater colour range is also becoming available. (xviii) Rhododendrons Rhododendrons are known for their showy flowers and foliage. Out of 82 species of rhododendrons recorded from Himalaya, 70 species are confined to eastern Himalaya. Hooker’s expedition to Sikkim in 1848 revealed 45 new species, which
included the yellow flowered Rhododendron campylocarpum and R. wighti; the redflowered R. thomsoni, the small tree R. falconeri and the large R. griffithianum with massive white flowers. However, unfortunately, nearly half of the Rhododendron species have become rare and threatened and some of the very ornamental species are now facing extinction eg. Rhododendron nuttalli, R. falconeri, R. edgeworthii, R. elliotii, R. hookeri, R. macabeanum and R. watti.
Other underutilized flowers:
HORTICULTURAL CROPS: The constraints are: • Lack of awareness among the farming community about the nutritional and medicinal value of underutilized horticultural crops. • • • • Lack of researches. Lack of desirable seeds and planting material. Limited application of advance on-farm agrotechniques. Lack of application of innovative and novel technologies such as biotechnology, plasticulture for enhancement of productivity.
Lack of about post harvest management practices. Limited and inadequate marketing supports & infrastructure facilities for transportation, storage and processing.
Poor recognition of these crops in horticulture promotion programmes. Improper institutional arrangements and limited role played by financial institutions in setting up of agro industrial and horticulture based industrial units.
HORTICULTURAL CROPS: • Afforestration and rejuvenation of degraded forests may be carried out with emphasis on supplementing and enriching biodiversity of edible food/horticultural crops. Joint forest management programmes should facilitate spread of ITK available with local communities on sustainable collection and use of various edible species.
Domestication of potential wild species through homestead cultivation should be encouraged for avoiding over-exploitation from natural sources. Supports are required in terms of multiplication of planting materials and their distribution besides providing market access through \marketing network for perishables.
Under-utilized horticultural crops are nutritionally rich and adapted to low input agriculture. More R & D efforts in these will add substantially to food security and nutrition vis-à-vis human welfare.
Limited number of species needs to be targeted for detailed research and development in under-utilized horticultural crops by national programmes focusing on their conservation and use. Research needs to be geared up both on species/crops important for subsistence farming and those exhibiting potential to become commodity crops.
Under-utilized horticultural crops are mainly grown/managed under traditional farming systems by diverse ethnic communities. Increased focus to document indigenous knowledge is required such as through ethobotanical studies. Such emphasis will help tap value additions as much of native diversity is put to multipurpose uses.
Strategies need to be worked out particularly at national and regional levels to develop and make available promising selections/varieties, overcoming constraints of production of good seed material, planting material, in-vitro/tissue cultured material etc. This would boost production, meeting local needs, promoting domestic markets and thereby, enhance income generation of small farming communities.
Systematic local specific crop planning in accordance with agro-climatic suitability of the region need to be done.
Rapid expansion of infrastructure facilities with priority on market development, transport and communication needs to be done.
Special emphasis should be on export oriented production programmes and border trade involving high value produce such as mushroom, orchids and cut flowers, spices, fresh temperate fruits and off season vegetables, frozen fruit juice, concentrate etc.
The yield and quality of these crops are poor which hamper the productivity. Hence, some criteria need to be developed for commercial exploitation of these crops. The criteria may be high productivity, market demand, freedom from serious insect-pest and diseases, easier post harvest management, high nutritive value and availability of production technology. Hence, special efforts are needed on the part of the research scientists to develop the suitable location specific package of practices of different horticultural crops including the development of superior varieties, and conservation of genetics resources.
At the very onset, there is a necessity to make the farming community aware about the nutritional importance of unexploited horticultural crops, i.e., fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants (Sharma, 2003). For this, extension agents can organize special awareness camps/campaigns, exhibition, etc., at micro and macro level conveying theme of unexploited horticultural crops. Similarly, use of mass media like radio, TV,
newspaper and other printed literature can play an effective role in creating awareness among the farmers.
For proper exploitation and better economic returns from underutilized horticultural crops emphasis should be given on developing processing units in this area. It would also provide employment opportunities to the rural folk.
Genetic erosion is very serious problem in non-traditional fruits and many land races will become extinct if these are not conserved soon. Likewise, efficient production technology and post harvest management are necessary to make the commercial cultivation of non-traditional horticultural crops feasible. The availability of nontraditional horticultural crops will go a long way in overcoming the malnutrition of the people living in these rural areas.
REFERENCES: • • http://www.wii.gov.in/envis/rain_forest/chapter1.htm Deng et al. 2003. Journal of Hunan Agricultural University (Natural Sciences) 29(6): 529-532 • • http://www.agrofolio.eu/uploads/files/final/Agrofolio_recommendations_China.pdf Slater, T et al. 2002, ‘Eriostemon australasius — capturing the variation’, in Proceedings 6th Australian Wildflower Conference, 30 May–1 June 2002, Warwick Farm, Sydney. Copies available from NSW Department of Primary Industries. • • RIRDC, Micropropagation of the Gymea lily, RIRDC Publication No. 00/36. Carson, C et al. 2000, ‘Riceflower’, in Should I grow wildflowers?, Agrilink Horticulture Series QAL 0001, Queensland Department of Primary Industries,
Brisbane. For more information contact Queensland Department of Primary Industries. • Luff, R 2002, ‘Everlasting daisies’, in Proceedings 6th Australian Wildflower Conference, 30 May–1 June 2002, Warwick Farm, Sydney. Copies available from NSW Department of Primary Industries.
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