Urban consumers today are becoming increasingly conscious and aware of their health and nutritional aspects. People nowadays prefer the natural, herbal health enhancing options. A number of herbal clinics have started using natural products extracted from these underutilized fruits to increase immunity and also to cure various ailments.
These fruits have unlimited potential in the world trade in their processed form. Presently various value added products such as jam, pickles, chutney, squashes, dried form of fruits, pulp etc. are being exported to other countries. Apart from processing, strong campaigning and advertising is necessary to create awareness and consciousness among the producers and consumers of underutilized tropical fruits.
Genetic resources of such indigenous fruits are facing a great threat of extinction due to climate change, large-scale urbanization and developmental projects. To safeguard the existing diversity of underutilized fruits, conservation of these species is of immense importance. Organized production and processing, for value addition of products is seen to be a great way to enhance income of farmers as well as to help on-farm conservation of valuable germplasm.
In view of the urgent need to strengthen the genetic resources of these underutilized fruits, Indian Council of Agricultural Research has launched a “National Network Project on Underutilized Fruits” to collect, introduce, characterize, evaluate, conserve and utilize the genetic resources of some of the underutilized fruit species.
CISH, Lucknow; CIAH, Bikaner; NBPGR, New Delhi; CHES, Chettalli; and CARI, Andaman and Nicobar are the partners in this project. Complementary conservation strategies including in situ
and ex situ
conservation methods would be employed to achieve successful conservation. Conservation strategies will be further developed and adopted based on extent of genetic diversity available, mechanism of propagation, reproductive biology of species and present biological status of the species.