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Biodiversity in vegetable crops, a heritage to save: the case of Puglia region

DOI: 10.4081/ija.2013.e4

Keywords: agro-biodiversity , local vegetable varieties , edible wild species , genetic erosion , Agri-food Traditional Products , Rural Development Program of Puglia , seed companies.

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Abstract:

The biodiversity in vegetable crops is composed by the genetic diversity, as species diversity (interspecific diversity) and as diversity of genes within a species (intraspecific diversity) referring to the vegetable grown varieties, and by the diversity of agro-ecosystems (agrobiodiversity). Intraspecific diversity is very ample in vegetable crops and is not reflected, at least not to the same extent, in other groups of crops. The labour operated by farmers over centuries of selection has led to the creation of a plurality of local varieties, following domestication of cultivated forms, and wide agro-biodiversity, a precious heritage both from a genetic and a cultural-historical point of view. The Italian National Statistical Institute (ISTAT) takes into account in its annual survey about forty vegetable crops. Intraspecific diversity in vegetables can also be analyzed by examining the information contained in the common catalogue of varieties of vegetable species. The 27 EU Countries as a whole had entered 19,576 varieties of vegetables in the common catalogue as of August 2011. The Netherlands, which represents 8% of total vegetable production in the EU, has registered 7826 varieties. Italy and Spain, which predominate in Europe for the production of vegetables, have registered only 8% (1513) and 9% (1672) of the total varieties, respectively. As a whole 54% of the European varieties entered in the catalogue are hybrids. Puglia, which contributes with about 22% to the Italian vegetable growing area, is among the leading regions for the productions of broccoli raab, celery, parsley, processing tomato, artichoke, endive and escarole, cabbage, fennel, lettuce, cucumber, cauliflower and broccoli, early potato, and asparagus (all with more than 20% of the national area). The region is particularly rich in local vegetable varieties, obtained by farmers themselves after repeated simple selection procedures generation after generation. The local varieties for which there is a strong link with the Puglia traditions and which are described in this review are: carota di Polignano (Polignano carrot) and carota di sant’Ippazio (Saint Ippazio carrot) (Apiaceae), cipolla di Acquaviva delle Fonti (Acquaviva delle Fonti onion) and cipolla bianca di Margherita (Margherita white onion) (Liliaceae), cima di rapa (broccoli raab) (Brassicaceae), unripe melon - carosello, barattiere, meloncella, etc. (Cucurbitaceae), catalogna chicory - cicoria di Molfetta e cicoria di Galatina (Molfetta’s chicory and Galatina’s chicory) (Asteraceae).

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