Status of crop plants of agricultural importance in Kerala state, India: an update.
The state of Kerala in India, a part of the Western Ghats-Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot, is blessed with rich biodiversity including agrobiodiversity. Richness in crop diversity is attributed to the wide topographic and climatic niches, long history of outside contacts, personal craving for experimenting new crops, practice of high-density multi-species cropping system, etc. Evidence from several field exploration trips, herbarium survey, reliable literature and other sources has revealed that 306 crop taxa (excluding medicinal and aromatic plants, ornamentals and forestry species) belonging to 290 species coming under 179 genera and 61 families, are being cultivated in different areas of this state. This includes crops belonging to crop-groups - cereals and millets (11), pseudocereals (2), pulses (7), oilseeds (7), fibres (3), forages (14), fruits and nuts (107), vegetables (86; 18-being tuber crops), spices and condiments (20), plantation crops (10) and others (29). Of 306 taxa, 63 occur in the wild state as well; 43 are of only recent cultivation (< 15 years) or under trial cultivation by innovative farmers; and 43 are confined only in (sub)temperate hills. This is more than double (104% increase) the earlier estimate of crops made during 2011, which also included species of medicinal/aromatic/ornamental value (5), not under cultivation in Kerala (3), mistaken identity (3) and synonym (1). We provide here user-friendly crop-group wise categorization of taxa with their vernacular names for easy cross reference. This communication also discusses about the issue of botanical misidentification of crop plants, species of doubtful cultivation status, specialty crops, potential exotic crops, etc.