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Indigenous crop diversity maintained despite the introduction of major global crops in an African centre of agrobiodiversity

Indigenous crop diversity maintained despite the introduction of major global crops in an African centre of agrobiodiversity

Rampersad, Chris, Geto, Tesfu, Samuel, Tarekegn, Abebe, Meseret, Gomez, Marybel Soto ORCID: 0000-0003-1812-7416 , Pironon, Samuel ORCID: 0000-0002-8937-7626 , Büchi, Lucie ORCID: 0000-0002-1935-6176 , Haggar, Jeremy ORCID: 0000-0002-4682-4879 , Stocks, Jonathan, Ryan, Philippa ORCID: 0000-0001-6645-9744 , Buggs, Richard J. A. ORCID: 0000-0003-4495-3738 , Demissew, Sebsebe ORCID: 0000-0002-0123-9596 , Wilkin, Paul ORCID: 0000-0003-4982-7175 , Abebe, Wendawek M. ORCID: 0000-0002-6426-3489 and Borrell, James S. ORCID: 0000-0001-9902-7681 (2023) Indigenous crop diversity maintained despite the introduction of major global crops in an African centre of agrobiodiversity. Plants, People, Planet (PPP). pp. 1-12. ISSN 2572-2611 (Online) (doi:

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Societal Impact Statement
The global success and expansion of a small pool of major crops, including rice, wheat and maize, risks homogenising global agriculture. Focusing on the agriculturally diverse Ethiopian Highlands, this study tested whether farm diversity tends to be lower among farmers who grow more introduced crops. Surprisingly, it was found that farmers have successfully integrated introduced crops, resulting in more diverse and heterogenous farms without negatively impacting indigenous crop diversity. This is encouraging because diverse farms, comprising indigenous agricultural systems supplemented by introduced crops, may help address global challenges such as food insecurity.
The global expansion of a handful of major crops risks eroding indigenous crop diversity and homogenising agroecosystems, with significant consequences for sustainable and resilient food systems. Here, we investigate the farm-scale impact of introduced crops on indigenous agroecosystems. We surveyed 1369 subsistence farms stratified across climate gradients in the Ethiopian Highlands, a hotspot of agrobiodiversity, to characterise the richness and cultivated area of the 83 edible crops they contained. We further categorise these crops as being indigenous to Ethiopia, or introduced across three different eras. We apply non-metric multidimensional scaling and mixed effects modelling to characterise agroecosystem composition across farms with different proportions of introduced crops. Crops from different periods do not differ significantly in frequency or abundance across farms. Among geographically matched pairs of farms, those with higher proportions of modern introduced crops had significantly higher overall crop richness. Furthermore, farms with a high proportion of modern introduced crops showed higher heterogeneity in crop composition. An analysis of socio-economic drivers indicated that poverty is negatively associated with the cultivated area of introduced crops. In our Ethiopian case study, global patterns of major crop expansion are not necessarily associated with agrobiodiversity loss at the farm scale or higher homogeneity across indigenous agricultural systems. Importantly, socioeconomic factors may influence farmers' propensity to adopt novel species, suggesting targets for agricultural extension policies. Given the rapid climatic, economic and demographic changes impacting global food systems and the threats to food security these entail, robust indigenous agricultural systems enriched with diverse introduced crops may help maintain resilience.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: agricultural systems; crop diversity; crop domestication; Ethiopia; food security; indigenous crops; orphan crops; sustainable agriculture
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Engineering & Science
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Agriculture, Health & Environment Department
Faculty of Engineering & Science > Natural Resources Institute > Ecosystem Services Research Group
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2023 13:49

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