ZBYNEK POLESNY, BOHDAN LOJKA, JANA LOJKOVA, JAN BANOUT, MARTIN KOCAREK
Czech University of Agriculture, Institute of Tropics and Subtropics, Czech Republic
In terms of biodiversity, Peru is among the three richest South American countries, along with Brazil and Colombia. Amazonia has supplied a number of important crops for world agriculture and can still offer many more if scientific research and entrepreneurial action are directed towards this end. Approximately 0.5% (350 000ha) of the Peruvian Amazon is converted to cropland or pastures each year, with greatest rates of deforestation occurring around population centres, such as Pucallpa, the capital of Ucayali region.
The fruit diversity of Amazon basin is far from exploited. More than 100 different fruits compose the offer of the traditional markets of the continent and the present inventory includes more than 1100 native American fruits, at all stages of domestication, some still collected in the wild, while some of their successful relatives are cultivated intensively. These locally important species are frequently neglected by science. Lack of attention by research and development has meant that their potential value is underexploited. This neglect status places them in danger of continuing genetic erosion, further restricting development options for the rural poor. Research to increase their value and make them more widely available would broaden their resource base and increase the livelihood options for rural communities.
Although, some of the indigenous species have been promoted and researched, there exist numerous neglected fruit crops, such as Pouteria speciosa, Maxmilliana marida, Couma utilis, Paraqueiba sericea, Plukenetia volubilis, Scheelea basleriana, Theobroma bicolor, Theobroma grandiflorum, Crescentia cujete etc. which are not yet fully domesticated and important ethnobotanical data still remains unknown.
Native fruits present unique opportunities to widen or re-conquer domestic markets, to diversify agricultural production and for the sustainable development of particular areas, as the fragile ecosystems of the Amazon basin.
The objective of this study was to emphasise the genetic diversity and multipurpose use of neglected crops (especially fruit trees) of Ucayali department in connection with appropriate ethnobotanical data trough participatory on farm research. Subsequently, germplasm collection was established in cooperation with Universidad Nacional de Ucayali for further selection and return distribution to local farmers.
Keywords: Amazonia, fruit species, neglected crops, Peru