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Just three crops -maize, rice and wheat- account for more than half of the world’s consumption of calories and protein. 95% of the world’s food needs are provided for by just 30 species of plants. In stark contrast, at least 30,000 species have been deemed edible, while 7,000 have been or are still cultivated to some extent for food. The alarming high number of species that have fallen into disuse – commonly termed as “Neglected and Underutilised Species (NUS)” – will strongly impact farming systems and beyond due to the enormous loss of agrobiodiversity we are experiencing.
NUS are those that “could be” and, in many cases, historically “have been” used for food and other uses on a larger scale. NUS continue to play important roles in the subsistence and economy of poor people throughout the developing world, particularly in the agrobiodiversity-rich tropics. Apart from their commercial value, a lot of them also provide important environmental services, as they are highly capable of adapting to marginal soil and climate conditions. Despite their potential for dietary diversification and the provision of micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, they continue to attract little research and development attention.
Crops for the Future (CFF) is an international partnership organisation undertaking research and information management to foster greater use of NUS in agriculture and diets for the benefit of the world’s poor.