Review of the wider benefits of growing exotic crops
Garden Organic carried out a review in conjunction with the University of Birmingham to examine the role of growing exotic crops in genetic conservation and food security.
It's clear there is a goldmine of specialist knowledge, experience and seeds held by multicultural communities growing crops in allotments and gardens in the UK. The Sowing New Seeds project has gone a long way in capturing and preserving some of this precious resource. However, there is much beyond this being a fascinating wealth of information. The small-scale growing of multicultural crops could have essential roles in genetic conservation and food security. * University of Birmingham and Garden Organic analysed and reviewed survey data collected during interviews with allotment plot-holders at 31 sites around the Midlands.
Some of the headline findings were:
- The percentage of growers aged over 70 was far higher for Caribbean growers than British white growers. This is a clear message that the knowledge for cultivating exotic crops is in danger of being lost as information is not passed on to younger generations.
- We found a significant proportion (38 per cent) of the exotic crops are grown from self-saved seed. This is important as it indicates that these crops are diversifying and adapting to local conditions.
- It is encouraging to find that 73 per cent of growers swap seeds with others—another way of increasing crop diversity and ensuring rare varieties are grown and not lost.
- This review has highlighted the importance of allotment plot-holders in conserving both traditional and exotic crops and the vital role of exotic crops in the UK’s multicultural society. Critically, the long-term security of allotments is vital for the preservation of this important source of knowledge and resources for food security.