Identification and Evaluation of Agronomic and Ecological Neglected Crops in Agroecosystems of Iran: 2 - Introduction of under Utilized and Neglected Crops

Document Type : Scientific - Research


Department of Agrotechnology, Faculty of Agriculture, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Mashhad, Iran


Conventional agriculture has led to a massive erosion of plant genetic resources in agroecosystems, due to agricultural intensification. Such process has resulted in underutilized and neglected crops, many of which were historically adapted to the local environmental conditions, they were grown. These crops were important in terms of both diet and socio-economic aspects of local communities. Underutilized crops are regarded as new crops for those who use them for the first time most of which were used widely once in the past but now due to different reasons are less attracted to the farmers and the users. Neglected crops are still cultivated in their center of origin by the local communities. They contributed significantly to biodiversity of cropping systems. However little is known about the agronomic and environmental criteria of these crops based on the new area of environmental changes. Since neglected crops are low input and extensive in terms of inputs, yield improvement, quality, marketing and policy framework strategies are needed in order to enhance their proper use and economic value. Traditionally these crops were used as food, fiber, fodder, oil and medicinal sources but at present due to their unrecognized properties and also poor consumer’s awareness they have not been brought to use in a wide scale. One of the important issues related to the reintroduction of these crops to the cropping system is proper understanding of their properties and the way they could be adapted to the new area of technologies. However, care should be taking to preserve their genetic identity based on the low input cropping systems. The aim of the present study was to identify neglected and underutilized crops in Iran for the possible reintroduction to the cropping systems on the account of serious environmental changes.
Materials and Methods
This study was based on the field and documented data collection by questionnaire field visit, interview and literature review. Species were classified into two groups of underutilized and neglected and their specifications such as local and scientific names, ecological criteria, yield, life span (annual, biennial and perennial), growth form (herb, woody and …) and cultivation requirements, historical use and present status in the country were investigated.

Results and Discussion
There were 17 less-used species (in 13 families) and 5 forgotten species (in 4 families). Low competitive value of these species compared with those of high productive value crops, introduction of new crop varieties, deep changes in food and drug consumption regime, political and socio-economic factors and finally prohibition for cultivation of some species such as opium were the cause of this neglect. In addition replacement with new species adapted to new technologies was also responsible for substitution. As the demand for new nutritional traits is increasing, neglected crops can overcome the constraints to the wider production and use. Although attempts for large-scale cultivation of neglected and underutilized crops appear to be increasingly exhausted, many species have the potential to contribute to food security, nutrition, health and income generation and consequently more socio-economic benefits. Despite their potential for food diversification and providing important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, they continue to attract little research and development attention.
In the context of the present study underutilized crops for Iran considered to be species such as sesame (Sesamun indicum), flax (Linum usitatissimum), Jutte (Hibiscus cannabinus), castor bean (Ricinus communis), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), hemp (Cannabis sativa), safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), Secale (Secale cereale), millet (Panucum miliaceum), lathyrus (Lathyrus sativus), Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia), Rubia (Rubia tinctorum), Sweet Potato (Ipomoea batatas), Henna (Lawsonia inermis), Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum) and Rheum (Rheum ribes) and the important neglected crops are opium (Papaver somniferum), Eruca (Eruca sativa), Vasmeh (Indigofera tinctoria) and Rumex (Romex acetosella).


Anonymous. 2003. Ground Issues and Dehghani. Agah Publication, Tehran, Iran 265 pp. (In Persian)
Anonymous. 2006. Historical roles of UK on circulating drug consumption in Iran. Fars News Agency. (In Persian)
Bagheri Zonoz, A. 2003. History of Development Agricultural Sciences of Iran (The ancient period to nowadays). Tehran University Press, Tehran, Iran 328 pp. (In Persian)
Bahrami, T. 1951. Agriculture History of Iran. Tehran University Press, Tehran, Iran 227 pp. (In Persian)
Birjandi, A. 2008. Cognition of Agriculture (Chapter Twelve). Mirasemaktoob Research Center, Tehran, Iran 232 pp. (In Persian)
Collins, W.W., and Hawtin, G.C. 1999. Conserving and Using Crop Plant Biodiversity in Agroecosystems p. 267-281 in Biodiversity in Agroecosystems (W.W. Collins and C.O. Qualset, eds). CRC Press, Boca Raton, Washington.
Encarta Encyclopedia Deluxe CD. 2003. Microsoft Corporation.
FAO. 1997. Human Nutrition in the developing World. FAO Food and Nutrition Series No. 29. Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.
Fazel Pour, T. 2001. Agricultural History of Period of Sasanian. Pagohandeh Publication 196 pp. (In Persian)
Ghalegolab Behbahani, A., Khoshbakht, K., Tabrizi, L., and Davari, A. 2013. A comparative assessment of Agrobiodiversity indices in farms, gardens and home gardens (Case study: of Jajrood basin). Journal of Agroecology 5(2): 161-168. (In Persian with English Summary)
Hamedani, R.F. 1989. Asar o ehya. Tehran University Press, Tehran, Iran 231 pp. (In Persian)
Imam, Y. 2003. Cereal Crops. Shiraz University Press, Shiraz, Iran 190 pp. (In Persian)
Karimi, H. 2004. Crops. Tehran University Press, Tehran, Iran 714 pp. (In Persian)
Khajeh Pour, M. 1991. Industrial Crop Production. Published by Jahad Daneshgahi, Sanati Isfahan, Isfahan, Iran 251 pp. (In Persian)
Khodabandeh, N. 1994. Industrial Crops. Sepehr Publication. Tehran, Iran 456pp. (In Persian)
Koocheki, A., and Banayan, M. 1994. Puls Crops. Jahad. Daneshgahi, Mashhad Publications, Mashhad, Iran 236 pp. (In Persian)
Koocheki, A., Nassiri Mahallati, M., and Kamali, G.H. 2007. Climate indices of Iran under climate change. Iranian Journal of Field Crops Research 5: 133-142. (In Persian with English Summary)
Koocheki, A., Nassiri Mahallati, M., and Nadjafi, F. 2004. The agrobiodiversity of medicinal and aromatic plants in Iran. Iranian Journal of Field Crops Research 2: 208-216. (In Persian with English Summary)
Mozafarian, V. 1981. Dictionary of Plant Names of Iran. Farhang Moaser Press, Tehran, Iran 740 pp. (In Persian)
Nabati, J., and Rezvani Moghaddam, P. 2006. The effect of irrigation intervals on qualitative and quantitative traits of forage millet, sorghum and corn. Iranian Journal of Agricultural Sciences 37: 21-29. (In Persian with English Summary)
Nassiri Mahalati, M., Koocheki, A., and Mazaheri, D. 2004. Diversity of crop species in Iran. Desert 10: 33-50. (In Persian with English Summary)
Normohamadi, G., and Haj Seyed Hadi, M. 2004. Neglected crop in Iran. 8th Iranian Crop Science Congress. Gilan University, Gilan, Iran. (In Persian)
Normohamadi, G.H., Haj Seyed Hadi, M., Darzi, T., and Movahedi Dehnavi, M. 2005. Missed field and horticultural crops from the year 1492 the other pathway. Islamic Azad University Press, Tehran, Iran 584 pp. (In Persian)
Ogle, B.M., and Grivetti, L.E. 1995. Legacy of the chameleon: edible wild plants in the Kingdom of Swaziland, Southern Africa. A cultural, ecological, nutritional study. Part II- Demographics, species availability and dietary use, analyses by ecological zone. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 17: 1-30.
Olfati, H. 1995. History of Agriculture and Animal in Iran. Amir Kabir Publications, Tehran, Iran 788 pp. (In Persian)
Padulosi, S., Cifarelli, S., Monti, L.M., and Perrino, P. 1987. Cowpea Germplasm in Southern Italy. FAO/IBPGR Plant Genetic Resources Newsletter, Rome, Italy 71: 37-37.
Papari Moghaddam Fard, A., and Bahrani, M.J. 2005. Effect of nitrogen fertilizer rates and plant density on some agronomic characteristics, seed yield, oil and protein percentage in two sesame cultivars. Iranian Journal of Agriculture Science 36: 129-135. (In Persian with English Summary)
Parsa, M., and Bagheri, A. 2008. Pulses. Published by Jahad Daneshgahi, Mashhad, Iran. (In Persian)
Prescott, A. 1990. How many plants feed the world? Conservation Biology 4: 365-374.
Rashidi, M. 2012. Sesame role in cropping pattern, productivity and sustainable development in Fars Province. Agriculture Organization of Fars Province. Tehran, Iran. (In Persian)
Rastgar, M.A. 2005. Industrial Crops. Barahmand Publication 479 pp. (In Persian)
Rezvani Moghaddam, P. 2008. New and Forgotten Plants. In Modern Agriculture. Edited by: Koocheki, A., and Khajeh Hosseini, M. Jahad Daneshgahi, Mashhad Publications p. 446-472. (In Persian)
Safari, M., and Koocheki, A. 2002. Sesame yield and yield components responses to tillage methods and residue management in different rotations. Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology 16: 27-34. (In Persian with English Summary)
Samadi, A. 1983. Industrial Crops (oil and fiber plants). Ahvaz Jundishapur University Press, Ahvaz, Iran 273 pp. (In Persian)
Sanio Saltaneh, A. 1911. Agriculture and Horticulture. Illustrated Library. Tehran, Iran 180 pp. (In Persian)
Seghatoleslami, M.J., Kafi, M., Majidi, I., Nour-Mohammadi, G., Darvish, F., and Ghazizadeh, A. 2005. Effect of drought stress on leaf soluble sugar content, leaf rolling index and relative water content of proso millet (Panicum miliaceumL.) genotypes. Iranian Journal of Field Crops Research 3: 220-231. (In Persian with English Summary)
Sharif Abadi, H., and Sari, M.A. 2001. Forage Crops. Publications of Research Institute of Forests and Rangelands. Tehran, Iran 311 pp. (In Persian)
UNEP. 1995. Global Biodiversity Assessment. United Nations Environment Program University Press, Cambridge, UK.
WCMC. 1992. Global Biodiversity: Status of the Earth’ Living Resources – World Conservation Monitoring Center, Chapman and Hall, London, New York 5494 pp.
Woolfe, J. 1992. Sweet Potato: An Untapped Food Resource, Cambridge University Press, UK.
Yavari, A. 1980. Introduction to the Recognition of Traditional Farming of Iran. Board of Translation and Publication Book, Tehran, Iran 192 pp. (In Persian)
Yoshimoto, M. 1999. Antimutagenicity of sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) roots. Bioscience Biotechnology and Biochemistry 63: 537-541.
Zeven, A.C., and J.M.J., Wet. 1982. Dictionary of Cultivated Plants and Their Regions of Diversity Excluding Most Ornamentals Forest Trees and Lower Plants. 2nd Ed. Pudoc, entre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, Wageningen, Netherlands.