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New book on fruits and seeds preservation of desert plants in Central Asia

Date: 05.06.2016.

This newly published manual contains unique information and description of 120 plant species from 13 taxonomical families of flowering plants.

Central Asia is an arid to semi-arid region with more than half of its territory covered by deserts, grasslands and shrublands with sparse vegetation. In this context, the desert and semi-desert plant communities represent a valuable reserve of fodder, forage, medicinal and edible plants. Among them, halophytes ('salt loving plants') can be used as a tool for desalination and restoration of salt affected lands. For example, they could be used to ameliorate saline soil, to rehabilitate degraded ecosystems, or be cultivated on a commercial scale for specific end uses. By developing such strategies, unused or marginal lands can be brought under cultivation, and existing agricultural lands made more productive, which will open a new door to sustainable crop production.    

The fruits and seeds (germplasm) are vessels for these species' genome, and preserving them is essential in a stressed desert environment that is more susceptible to climate change, desertification and land degradation than other environments. Given the right conditions, disappearing species can be preserved for future generations through seed banks. Therefore, a good knowledge of fruit morphology, germplasm conservation and seed germination techniques is necessary for creating seed conservation and production schemes for salt-, drought-, and heat-tolerant plants. Their use in saline land reclamation requires information on salt tolerance of mature plants, seeds and seedlings, and knowledge of their germination strategies under saline environments.

However, there are few publications on the biology and ecology of seeds and fruit morphology of desert flowering plants in Central Asia, making it difficult to plan their use in restoration and land improvement programs. In view of this, the newly published book on "Fruit morphology and biology of seed germination of Central Asian desert and semidesert plants"[1] attempts to fill in this information gap. It presents data collected during country-wide surveys covering desert and semidesert areas conducted over the last 40 years by researchers from the Institute of the Gene Pool of Plants and Animals, Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, Samarkand State University, International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), and others.

This newly published manual contains unique information and description of 120 plant species from 13 taxonomical families of flowering plants. Description of each species includes habitat, ecology, economic value, fruit morphology and biology of seed germination by considering temperature impact. For most of the species, influence of salinity on seed germination is also described. Each species account is illustrated with a general view of plant, and where necessary details of fruit and seed morphology are given. A summary table showing the optimum temperature needed for seed germination, length, type and methods of breaking seed dormancy, as well as stimulation of seed germination is provided at the end of this handbook.

Research was undertaken to determine the processes of seed development in desert environments, and to understand the role of desert-limiting stress factors on seed reproduction and utilization. Identifying the type of seed dormancy and seed storage conditions is essential for restoration, because it may provide information on how to minimize the dormancy period, prepare suitable seed mixtures, and decide on the right seeding rate, timing, and soil preparation. It is hoped that this book (written in Russian with a comprehensive summary in English) will be useful for practitioners, farmers, agropastoralists and researchers dealing with introduction of wild desert plants into cultivation, and will provide readers with the necessary knowledge essential for ecosystem restoration and land improvement programs in the arid and semi-arid areas of Central Asia.  

[1] Butnik A., Toderich K., Matyunina T., Zhapakova U. and Yusupova D. 2016. Handbook on fruit morphology and biology of seed germination of Central Asian arid and semiarid plants. Yangi nashr, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 320 p.

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