FAO - CONTRIBUTION TO THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL WALNUT CONGRESS - “ISSUES FOR COLLABORATIVE ACTION ON CONSERVATION, EVALUATION AND UTILIZATION OF NUT GERMPLASM, WITH PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO WALNUT.”
To begin with, I would like to express my sincere thanks to the Government of Portugal, to the Organizing Committee, and to the International Society for Horticultural Science for organizing and hosting this important Third International Walnut Congress. I am especially pleased to have the opportunity, also, on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, to extend the best wishes and greetings of our Director-General, Dr. Jacques Diouf, to all participants and organizers.
My special and personal thanks are also addressed to my esteemed colleague and friend, Dr. J. Gomes Pereira, of the "Estação Nacional de Fruticultura de Vieira Natividade".
It was easy for me to forecast several years ago in Tarragona, that walnut had great potential for development, not only in the areas of its natural and traditional distribution, but also in many other countries of the world.
In fact, in the past this species was often treated as a spontaneous fruit plant particularly because of its natural aptitude to grow easily and autonomously in backyard gardens, bordering roads or fields, or in stands or small orchards on land considered unsuitable for major crops. Today, instead, its cultivation has become quite specialized, and it is utilized in fruit intensification programs where the plant is gaining ground in direct competition with other tree fruit crops.
In this regard, it must be recognized that in the last 30 years, a lot of progress has been achieved in the field of research on this species, with the creation of new, highly productive and disease-resistant varieties. A better understanding of the biological behavior of the walnut plant has also been gained and applied with a view to developing its cultivation under specialized conditions.
In remote or mountainous regions far away from markets, walnut, being a commodity of low perishability, is considered to be a very suitable crop within the context of programs that are aiming to promote crop diversification and sustainable agricultural development. In my opinion, walnut cultivation will be in progressive expansion, especially in developing countries, since it is already recognized by the farmers as a potentially rewarding crop.
If we consider that one of the major areas of diffusion of walnut is South Eastern Europe, it is perhaps a little curious to observe that in the European continent, growers have not developed this crop with the same enthusiasm of the producers of North America, where the Persian walnut species, Juglans regia, was reportedly introduced only in the nineteenth century. The thorough development of walnut in the in the American continent, guided by targeted research on quality and market intelligence, has brought back to Europe a product of excellent quality which is now impressively present in the continental market. One could say