Orphan Crops

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    In News

    • Recently, experts have cited the importance of Indigenous Crops in Surviving the Climate Change.

    What are Orphan Crops?

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    • Orphan crops are those that aren’t traded internationally.
    • They tend to get less attention in terms of research of agricultural training and extension. 
      • Because they get less research attention, the breeding technology for orphan crops is lagging way behind modern technology. 
      • This means that the seeds farmers’ plant is less likely to be resilient to drought, flooding, or extreme temperatures; lower in productivity; and more vulnerable to pests and disease.
    • They’re typically grown in Africa, Asia, and/or South America and eaten as part of local diets. 

    Examples

    • Millet: 
      • Produced heavily in India, Nigeria, Niger, and Mali.
      • Millet is a small-seeded grass. 
      • There are a number of millet varieties, and they tend to be high in magnesium (which helps maintain muscle and nerve function) and are a good source of antioxidants.
    • Cowpea
      • It is known as “black-eyed peas.” 
      • It’s produced mostly in Nigeria and Niger and is rich in amino acids compared to other grains.
    • Pigeonpea: 
      • Pigeonpea is a legume with top production in India, Myanmar (Burma), Malawi, and Uganda. 
      • It’s high in protein and fiber, and it’s great for intercropping, or growing alongside other plants. 
      • It has a deep root system, so it doesn’t compete for resources with other plants, and it actually improves its soil by adding more nitrogen.

    Significance of Orphan Crops

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    • Orphan crops are incredibly important in the countries where they’re grown.  
    • They provide income for the poorest farmers and serve as staples in the local diet. 
    • Though lagging breeding technology has hurt their resilience, especially to pests and disease, they are uniquely adapted to the environment in which they are grown. 

    Source: SD