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New native crops for the arid Southwest

Thompson, A.E.
Economic botany 1985 v.39 no.4 pp. 436
Agricultural Research Service, Cuphea, Grindelia, Lesquerella, agricultural experiment stations, arid lands, buffaloes, chemical composition, domestication, food plants, foods, gourds, hydroxy fatty acids, indigenous peoples, indigenous species, industry, irrigated farming, irrigation water, jojoba, medium chain fatty acids, new crops, ornamental plants, research and development, research programs, resins, water use, Sonoran Desert, Southwestern United States
Agricultural production in the arid Southwest is heavily dependent upon water for irrigation. If current trends of water use continue, the amount of water available to agriculture in the year 2000 will only meet approximately 50% of the needs of currently available irrigated crop land. Development of new crops with low irrigation needs is of highest priority. None of the major crop plants of the world is well adapted to arid lands. However, in the Sonoran Desert, more than 375 species of noncultivated food plants have been identified, and approximately 40 of these served as major local food resources for native people in the region. Research and development of new crops must address the issues of water use, productivity, chemical composition, and quality. Domestication of native species that have evolved and became adapted to arid conditions in the Southwest is considered to be a good strategy. Research and development programs on such native, new crops as guayule, jojoba, and buffalo gourd are well underway. New domestication programs involving Cuphea species for medium-chain fatty acids, Lesquerella species for hydroxy fatty acids, Grindelia camporum for resin production, and interspecific hybrids of Baccharis for landscape plant materials are described. The role of the USDA Agricultural Research Service, state agricultural experiment stations, and industry in the development of new crops is discussed.