UNDERUTILIZED PLANTS OF THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, consisting of 14 islands, is located in the Western Pacific. Agriculture is relatively undeveloped in the Commonwealth, with farms mostly subsistence in nature. A variety of mixed vegetables, root crops, and tropical fruits, which form an important part of the local diet, are grown widely for family consumption and some for sale at local markets. These are grown mainly through backyard gardening. The Northern Marianas College Cooperative Research, Extension and Education Service is undertaking research on specialty crops, mainly food crops and minor cash crops for small-scale farmers, and promoting innovative agricultural development through scientific research. Several research and extension programs have been developed to promote awareness in underutilized crops in plant protection, crop production and improvement, and insect pests and diseases of major staple crops, such as sweet potato, taro, banana, corn and tropical fruits. These programs focus on a wide range Five-Year Plan of Work, which includes postharvest technology; marketing studies; value-added commodities; and food processing of staple crops, indigenous fruits, and nuts species. There is continuing emphasis on crops or varieties suitable for growth in the islands but are currently underutilized or neglected, such as Zingiber officinale (edible ginger), Curcuma longa (turmeric), Cananga odorata (ylang ylang), Calophyllum inophyllum (daok), Bixa orellana (annatto), etc. In the Commonwealth, thirty crops have been identified as underutilized or specialty crops with economic value, such as spices, staple, cosmetic oil, beverage, vegetable, timber, medicinal, fiber, dyes and crafts. Dwindling economy and foreign influences have changed social attitudes towards food production and consumption, such as the switch in food preferences from traditional foods to imported foods, e.g., rice, flour, sugar, and tinned food. However, a coherent agricultural research program could provide options that would help farmers to increase their food production capacity by cultivating underutilized crops.
Nandwani, D. and Tenorio, J. (2009). UNDERUTILIZED PLANTS OF THE NORTHERN MARIANA ISLANDS . Acta Hortic. 806, 163-168
Pacific, specialty crops, constraints, value added