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Exploiting under-exploited and under-utilized plant resources

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.

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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.