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The benefits of exotic food crops cultivated by small-scale growers in the UK

The benefits of exotic food crops cultivated by small-scale growers in the UK
The benefits of exotic food crops cultivated by small-scale growers in the UK
Exotic crops - plant species grown in relatively small quantities and not traditionally cultivated in a country or region - are often intimately linked with the ethnic origins of their maintainers and are a principal source of culinary and nutritional diversity for many people. Recognizing that a wealth of exotic crop diversity and associated knowledge is held by small-scale growers in the UK, Garden Organic initiated the Sowing New Seeds project to capture and preserve some of this valuable resource by building a seed collection and knowledge base. To establish a sample of this diversity and knowledge, we undertook a survey at 31 allotment sites in the Midlands region of the UK with the objectives of identifying the exotic crops cultivated, characterizing the demography of those who grow them, understanding their direct use values, and assessing their potential indirect use value for the diversification and improvement of other crops. Results reveal that 26% of the food crops recorded are exotic and that they are grown by people belonging to 13 different ethnic groups. The majority save their own seed, indicating that these crops are performing well in the UK, with grower selection providing the basis for their continuing success. Further, most maintainers swap seed with other growers, indicating that exotic crops are likely to be gradually diversifying in response to different growing conditions - a positive sign for their value for local food security and as national genetic resources with potential for use in crop improvement programs. The research highlights the multitude of benefits that growers obtain through cultivating exotic crops, which are not only related to nutrition and culinary requirements, but also to general health and well-being, culture, and a range of other forms of life enrichment. It is critical that growers are encouraged and supported in continuing to cultivate, save and pass on their exotic crops to younger generations, as well as to protect allotments from development in order to maintain this important diversity adapted to local growing conditions. Importantly, many exotic crops currently grown on a small scale may enter into commerce, and thus expand the diversity of the UK's food crop base. Such a shift may be particularly important in the face of the increasingly detrimental impacts of climate change on crop production. We conclude that exotic crop diversity could be more important for future nutrition, health and food security than we currently appreciate.
climate change, crop diversity, ex situ conservation, exotic crops, food security, in situ conservation, plant genetic resources
1742-1705
569-584
Kell, S.
dfcb7f54-c405-441b-a2d7-bc3d9ec71a36
Rosenfeld, A.
d2209641-6339-434c-b578-74bf364d098b
Cunningham, S.
cbeb56bb-7b48-4516-910d-eb07206afc82
Dobbie, S.
5fd9500a-c374-4588-a356-ae4e55b692b4
Maxted, N.
14b689b3-c89e-4507-91e8-83398c562d3d
Kell, S.
dfcb7f54-c405-441b-a2d7-bc3d9ec71a36
Rosenfeld, A.
d2209641-6339-434c-b578-74bf364d098b
Cunningham, S.
cbeb56bb-7b48-4516-910d-eb07206afc82
Dobbie, S.
5fd9500a-c374-4588-a356-ae4e55b692b4
Maxted, N.
14b689b3-c89e-4507-91e8-83398c562d3d

Kell, S., Rosenfeld, A., Cunningham, S., Dobbie, S. and Maxted, N. (2018) The benefits of exotic food crops cultivated by small-scale growers in the UK. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 33 (6), 569-584. (doi:10.1017/S1742170517000424).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Exotic crops - plant species grown in relatively small quantities and not traditionally cultivated in a country or region - are often intimately linked with the ethnic origins of their maintainers and are a principal source of culinary and nutritional diversity for many people. Recognizing that a wealth of exotic crop diversity and associated knowledge is held by small-scale growers in the UK, Garden Organic initiated the Sowing New Seeds project to capture and preserve some of this valuable resource by building a seed collection and knowledge base. To establish a sample of this diversity and knowledge, we undertook a survey at 31 allotment sites in the Midlands region of the UK with the objectives of identifying the exotic crops cultivated, characterizing the demography of those who grow them, understanding their direct use values, and assessing their potential indirect use value for the diversification and improvement of other crops. Results reveal that 26% of the food crops recorded are exotic and that they are grown by people belonging to 13 different ethnic groups. The majority save their own seed, indicating that these crops are performing well in the UK, with grower selection providing the basis for their continuing success. Further, most maintainers swap seed with other growers, indicating that exotic crops are likely to be gradually diversifying in response to different growing conditions - a positive sign for their value for local food security and as national genetic resources with potential for use in crop improvement programs. The research highlights the multitude of benefits that growers obtain through cultivating exotic crops, which are not only related to nutrition and culinary requirements, but also to general health and well-being, culture, and a range of other forms of life enrichment. It is critical that growers are encouraged and supported in continuing to cultivate, save and pass on their exotic crops to younger generations, as well as to protect allotments from development in order to maintain this important diversity adapted to local growing conditions. Importantly, many exotic crops currently grown on a small scale may enter into commerce, and thus expand the diversity of the UK's food crop base. Such a shift may be particularly important in the face of the increasingly detrimental impacts of climate change on crop production. We conclude that exotic crop diversity could be more important for future nutrition, health and food security than we currently appreciate.

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More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 6 September 2017
Published date: 1 December 2018
Keywords: climate change, crop diversity, ex situ conservation, exotic crops, food security, in situ conservation, plant genetic resources

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 426066
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/426066
ISSN: 1742-1705
PURE UUID: 381b01c9-0b7a-46a9-8214-61140d0f49c6

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Date deposited: 12 Nov 2018 17:30
Last modified: 12 Nov 2018 17:30

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Contributors

Author: S. Kell
Author: A. Rosenfeld
Author: S. Cunningham
Author: S. Dobbie
Author: N. Maxted

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