22. Exploiting under-exploited and under-utilized plant resources
Large number of trees, bushes, shrubs and grasses are naturally growing as wild plants in one or the other rainfed region of the world. Such plants are adapted to rainfed situation and have tremendous potential to be exploited as a food, forage, fuel and/or as industrial crop. Some of these plants have already been exploited in different parts of the world. For example, edible cactus (Opunita ficus indica) is in countries like Mexico, Argentina, France, Brazil, Italy, South Africa and even in south western USA. The other uses of cacti in arid and semi-arid areas include thorn less fodder species: as live fences, vegetative barrier for soil and water conservation on sloping lands and as a wind break or micro shelers in sand dune stabilization. A summary of Opunita use as reported in FAO manual on Cactus is presented in Box 2. Similarly, trees of the genus Prosopis are growing naturally in dry areas. This plant has a wider adaptability and can be grown in almost all kinds of degraded lands. It has also been exploited economically as timber, fuel-wood and forage and feed tree in countries like Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Senegal, etc. Its pods and leaves contain 13.6 and 12.9% protein respectively which is almost equivalent to that found in alfalfa which is considered as one of the best cultivated fodders. Prosopis leaves are also a good source of beta carotene and phosphorous. Other similar plants which can be exploited are: Henna (Lawsonia inermis), Jaffre (Bixa orellona), Neem (Azadirachta indica), perennial peanut, lablab bean (Lablab purpureus), snapmelon, Kachri, ashgourd, tropical Kudzu (Pueraria phaseoloides), perennial soybean (Neonotonia wightii), Desmodium spp., Indigofera spp., dil, lasura, Salvadora, Tephrosia etc.
A summary of Uses of Opuntias
Fruits and fruit peel, juice, pulp, alcoholic, jam, syrup
Stems/cladodes, fruits, seeds, cultivated as forage shrub
Biogas, ethanol, firewood
Diarrhoea (stems), diuretic (flowers, root), amoebic dysentery (flowers), diabetes (stems), hyperlypidemy (stems), obesity (fibres), anti-inflammatory (stems)
Shampoo, cream, soaps, body lotions
Hedges and fences, mulching, soil improver, wind break, organic manaure
Adhesives and glues, pectin, fibres for handicrafts, paper (stems), dyes (fruits, rearing of Dactyloptus on cladodes), anti-transpirant, ornamental.
To exploit the use of under-utilized plant resources as drought mitigation approach we need to focus on: (i) Generating an inventory of under-utilized/un- exploited plants and maintain their germplasm for productivity and quality improvement, (ii) identification of limits and optimal management practices for promising species and their evaluation as monoculture/mixed communities or even as under storey crop with trees, (iii) initiation of network projects on such species particularly on Prosopis juliflora and edible cactus, (iv) linking research and developmental issues of under-utilized plants with already existing international networks on such plants and (v) standardization of post harvest processing techniques for value addition and marketing opportunities. Similarly, large number of plants having medicinal properties exist in the desert areas. These can be exploited economically to supplement the income of farmers in the drought prone areas. Some of the species which have been identified as promising along with their probable use are listed in Table - 5. These species are also used in allopathy, unani, ayurvedic, and traditional herbal systems. By propagating such wild species in the existing cropping systems and as an associative crop with multipurpose tree species is an option of great promise.
Special attribute medicinal species of drought ecologies
Name of Plant Uses
Commiphora wightii Lowers the cholesterol level, Carmative, as fixative in perfumery
Cassia angustifolia Laxative, vermifute, Cathartic, Purgative
Withania somnifera Rheumatism, Tuberculosis, Aphrodisiac
Aloe barbadensis Rheumatism, Purgative, liver disorder
Pedalium murex Diuretic, impotency, Gonorrhoea and Dysuria, Demulcent, Ulcer
Boerhavia diffusa Diuretic, Jaundice
Cyperus rotundus Anti-peptic
Tinospora cordifolia Fever, Tonic
Tribulus terrestris Diuretic, Tonic
Peganum harmala Jaundice, Asthma, Rheumatism, Gallstones, Colic pains
Calotropis procera Cold and cough, Asthma, Fever
Capparis deciduas Dental problems, Asthma, Boils and Swellings
Andrographis paniculata Hepato protective.
Ministry of Agriculture, GOI.
Submitted by sugatha on Thu, 17/09/2009 - 15:44