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Status of underutilised species in South Africa Dr James Allemann Department of Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences Introduction Underutilised species in South Africa Exotic species (established elsewhere) Indigenous species (not commericalised) Selection of potential Exotic species

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Status of underutilised species in South Africa

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status of underutilised species in south africa

Status of underutilised speciesin South Africa

Dr James Allemann

Department of Soil, Crop

and Climate Sciences

  • Underutilised species in South Africa
    • Exotic species (established elsewhere)
    • Indigenous species (not commericalised)
  • Selection of potential Exotic species
    • Adapted to local conditions
    • High value
  • South Africa has large and rich biodiversity
    • Valuable source of potential new crops
    • Limited research funding for this work

Reasons for the development of underutilised species

  • Search for alternative crops
  • Increased income generation
  • Job creation
  • Improved nutrition
  • Plants adapted to low potential areas
    • Semi-arid country (<700mm rain)
    • High temperatures
    • Low fertility status soils

Research into Indigenous species

  • University research
    • Basic taxomomic documentation
    • General botany (including physiology)
    • Production aspects
  • Research Council’s research
    • Establishment of alternative crops
    • Commercialisation
    • Production
    • Medicinal / Food properties

Underutilised species have a wide range of uses

  • Herbs & spices
  • Essential oils
  • Fruit & nuts (fresh and / or processed)
  • Industrial
  • Medicinal
  • Floriculture
  • Food & beverages
  • Potential of underutilised species
    • Small niche markets
    • New consumer products
    • Successful on world markets
  • Implementation of research is difficult
  • Benefit sharing is a minefield
  • Market development is fraught with difficulties
herbs exotics
Herbs (Exotics)
  • Development of growers in rural areas
  • Sustainable production practices
  • Propagation of selected species
  • Establishment of research and demonstration blocks
  • Test adaptability (Eastern Cape)
essential oils exotic
Essential oils (Exotic)
  • Herbs such as spearmint
  • Lavender
  • Some extraction plants already established
    • Rolan Essential oils
  • Work on Rose Geranium
essential oils local
Essential oils (Local)
  • Khakibos (Tagetes minuta)
  • Buchu (Agathosoma betulina)
    • Agronomic practices (fertilisation)
    • Genebanks
    • Chemotype identification
    • Plant studies
  • One local concern is exporting oil
  • UFH Centoil project
    • Trying to re-establish
essential oils local10
Essential oils (Local)

A field planted to Buchu (Agathosoma betulina) for oil extraction

nuts exotic
Nuts (Exotic)
  • Pistachio (1000 ha)
    • Diseases
    • Pollination
  • Cashew
  • Walnut
  • Pecan nuts (established)
  • Being used as alternative / new crops in suitable areas
nuts exotic12
Nuts (Exotic)

Pistachio nuts

fruit exotic
Fruit (Exotic)
  • Carambola (Averrhoa carambola)
  • Cherimoya (Annona cherimola)
  • Pitanga (Eugenia uniflora)
  • Jaboticaba (Myricaria cauliflora)
    • Alternative crops in suitable areas
    • Mini orchards established (demonstration)
    • Feasibility studies
    • Identifying sources of suitable plant material
fruit exotic14
Fruit (Exotic)
  • Alternative crops in suitable areas
    • Feasibility studies
    • Identifying sources of suitable plant material
    • Mini orchards established (demonstration)
    • Select the best cultivars for local conditions
    • Evaluation of the crops
    • Establish niche markets
fruit local
Fruit (Local)
  • Initial surveys established which species are used in the Limpopo province
  • 7 Species identified that have potential
    • Forest waterberry (Syzygium guieense)
    • Mobola plum (Parinari curatellifolia)
    • Mispel (Vangueria infausta)
    • Large sour plum (Ximenia caffra)
    • Stem fruit (Engelerophytum magalismontanum)
    • Kei apple (Dovyalis caffra)
    • African mangosteen (Garcinia livingstonei)
fruit local16
Fruit (Local)
  • Collecting germplasm
  • Germination trials underway
  • Determination of fruit composition
  • Identified superior selections of Dovyalis caffra
industrial exotic local
Industrial (Exotic & Local)
  • A number of exotic species are being evaluated for the production of fibre:
    • Hemp (Cannabis sativa)
    • Flax
    • Bowstring hemp (Sansevieria aethiopica & S. pearsonii)
    • Kenaf
  • Cassava (Manihot esculenta)
    • Starch production (commercial 5000ha)
    • Cattle feed
medicinal exotic local
Medicinal (Exotic & Local)
  • >70% of the SA populace use traditional medicines
  • >50% drugs in use (natural products & derivatives)
  • Largest part of indigenous plant research
  • Commercial growers produce some products
    • Devils Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens)
    • Buchu (Agathosoma betulina)
    • Aloe (Aloe ferox)
medicinal local

Devils Claw

(Harpagophytum procumbens)

Aloe ferox

Medicinal (Local)
medicinal exotic local22
Medicinal (Exotic & Local)
  • Traditional plants (some examples)
    • Wild garlic (Tulbaghia violacea)
    • Wild ginger (Siphonochilus aethiopicus)
    • African potato (Hypoxis hemerocallidea)
  • ID active ingredients
    • Test for various activities (malaria, appetite supp.)
  • Genebank collections
  • Establish propagation methods
  • Some agronomic work for production
medicinal local23

African potato

(Hypoxis hemerocallidea)

Wild ginger (Siphonochilus aethiopicus)

Wild garlic (Tulbaghia violacea)

Medicinal (Local)
floriculture local
Floriculture (Local)

Large number of developments

Cape Floral Kingdom (fynbos) - commercial

    • Proteas
    • Leucospermums
    • :eucodendrons
  • Genebanking
  • Cultivar development
  • Agronomic studies
  • Plant pathology
floriculture local25
Floriculture (Local)

Indigenous bulbous plants

  • Lachenalia (commercial cut flower)
  • Ornithogalum
  • Cyrtanthus
    • Collections of genetic material
    • Conservation in genebanks
    • Botanical studies
    • Breeding research & cultivar development
    • Production methods
food beverage local
Food & beverage (Local)


  • Alcoholic (Maroela)
  • Non-alcoholic teas
    • Rooibos
    • Honeybush
food beverage local27


(Aspalathus linearis)


(Cyclopia linearis)

Food & beverage (Local)
food beverage local28
Food & beverage (Local)

Rooibos – established world market

  • Development of instant tea
  • Processing under different conditions
  • Identification of anti-oxidants / chemicals
  • Development of green rooibos
  • Anti-microbial activity
  • Optimal harvesting time
  • Use of enzymes in processing
  • Investigation of anti-cancer properties
food beverage local29
Food & beverage (Local)

Honeybush – developing world market

  • 2003 Approx. production of 220 tonnes
  • Two species planted (C. genistoides, C. subternata)
  • Agronomic aspects
  • Harvesting
  • Botanic studies
  • Pests & diseases
  • Planting demonstration & trial plots
  • Processing
food beverage local30
Food & beverage (Local)

Leafy vegetables:

food beverage local31
Food & beverage (Local)

Seed vegetables:

food beverage exotic local
Food & beverage (Exotic & Local)

Root and tuber vegetables:



Sweet potato

food beverage local33
Food & beverage (Local)

Root and tuber vegetables:

Livingstone potato

(Plectranthus esculentus)

food beverage local34
Food & beverage (Local)

Root and tuber vegetables:

Zulu round potato (Plectranthus rotundifolius)

food beverage exotic local35
Food & beverage (Exotic & Local)

Root and tuber vegetables:

Cassava (Manihot esculenta)

food beverage local36
Food & beverage (Local)

Indigenous fruit vegetables

Wide variety of cucurbits

food beverage local37

Plectranthus esculentus

Food & beverage (Local)

Indigenous vegetables

  • Surveys
  • Collect genetic material
  • Establish genebanks
  • Botanical studies
  • Multiplication trials
  • Agronomic studies
  • Nutritional studies
  • Pest & disease studies
  • Marketing studies
cross cutting programs
Cross-cutting programs

Work across all types of plants:

  • New Crop Pathology Programme (NCPP)
    • Diseases of new crops
    • Control methods (IPM)
  • New Crop Development Programme (NCDP)
    • Development of new crops
    • Screening of crude extracts for
      • Antifungal & antimicrobial,
      • herbicidal, and/or
      • biostimulatory effects
cross cutting programs39
Cross-cutting programs

Work across all types of plants:

  • Insects on New Crops Programme (INCrop)
    • Insect pests of new crops
  • Work on functional foods
    • Food plants with medicinal properties
    • Medicinal plants with potential uses as foods
  • National Department of Agriculture
    • Setting up a unit dealing with indigenous plants
  • Agricultural Research Council
    • Large number of projects at various institutes
  • Universities
    • Free State (NCPP, NCDP, INCrop programmes)
    • RAU
    • Pretoria
    • Natal
    • Fort Hare (plants with ethno-veterinary applications)
  • Provincial Departments of Agriculture
    • KwaZulu-Natal looking at commercialising some promising species (INR & ARC)
  • Pharmaceutical companies
    • Natural products
      • Pharma natura
      • Alpha pharmaceuricals
  • NGO’s such as Inst. Natural Resources
  • Traditional healers

Interest groups focused on new crops


(Southern African New Crops Research Association)

    • Research into new crops (Local & Exotic)
  • IPUF

(Indigenous Plant Use Forum)

    • Research on indigenous plants

(mainly medicinal)

  • Very wide range of parties interested in the development of underutilised crops / plants in South Africa
  • Wide range of plants are being investigated
  • Wide range of uses for plants are being investigated
    • Medicinal
    • Food
    • Biostimulants etc.
  • There appears to be a very solid core of researchers that are busy working with underutilised species
  • Even the government realises that here is potential in these species for development
  • Need to move from the laboratories to the communities
  • There are some problems that need to be sorted out  benefit sharing
  • University of the Free State
    • Prof. W.J. Swart
    • Prof. S. Louw
    • Prof. Seef Pretorius
  • Rand Afrikaans University
    • Prof. Ben-Erik van Wyk
  • ARC-Nietvoorbij / Infruitech
    • Dr Lizette Joubert
    • Ms Marilize Joubert
    • Rosemary du Preez
    • Ms Karin Hannweg
  • ARC-Roodeplaat
    • Dr Sonja Venter
    • Dr Fienie Niederwieser
    • Ms Ineke Vorster
    • Ms Riana Kleynans
    • Ms Erika van den Heever
    • Mr Willem van Rensburg