Indonesia is a large, rapidly growing developing country in southeastern Asia with a population approaching 250 million. Composed of over 17,000 islands, the country is one of the most populated in the world. Indonesia is characterized by a hot, humid tropical climate with abundant rainfall with some areas receiving almost daily precipitation. The climate includes a wet season running from roughly November to June. In most areas, the relatively short dry season is not characterized by true drought conditions because rainfall still occurs, just not as abundantly as in the wet season. As an example, rainfall during the statistically driest month of the year (August) in Manado is 132 mm (5.2 inches) compared with 415 mm (16.3 inches) in the statistically wettest month of January (Weatherhobo, 2012). Indonesia is mountainous with many volcanic peaks and temperatures vary with elevation. Because of a climate conducive to tropical plant growth, the country is rich in plant biodiversity. According to Conservation International, two of the world’s “Biodiversity Hotspots,” Sundaland and Wallacea, are located in Indonesia (Conservation International, 2012).
Presently, the main vegetable crops in Indonesia are: cabbage (Brassica oleracea), potatoes (Solanum tuberosum), onion (Allium cepa), chili (Capsicum annuum), tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum), Chinese cabbage/mustard (Brassica rapa), spring onion (Allium cepa), cucumber (Cucumis sativus), long beans (Vigna unguiculata), and cayenne pepper (Capsicum annuum). These crops comprised 73% of the total vegetable production in Indonesia, which amounted to 6,964,036 tons in 2007 (Adam, 2011). Primary fruit crops in Indonesia are: banana (Musa acuminata), Siamese orange (Citrus sinensis), pineapple (Ananas cosmosus), mango (Mangifera indica), salacca (Salacca zalacca), papaya (Carica papaya), jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus), durian (Durio zibethinus), and watermelon (Citrullus lanatus). These crops comprised 92% of the total fruit production of 17,116,622 tons in Indonesia in 2007 (Adam, 2011).
The scope of diversity of plants native to Indonesia is emerging with new species still being discovered and with more discoveries anticipated in the future. Some indigenous Indonesian plant species have potential for development into horticultural crops. However, many of these species remain understudied and thus underused. The development of new horticultural crops in Indonesia is attractive for several reasons: 1) regarding human health and nutrition, there is a general need to diversify Indonesian diets, which are based largely on rice, to include more fruits and vegetables (FAO, 2003); 2) horticultural crops generally require less land area than other crops and, in some cases, can be grown on marginal lands, thus offering the potential for slowing forest destruction and conserving biodiversity; and 3) horticultural crops generally yield more economic value per unit land area than traditionally grown agronomic crops and thus offer potential for economic development in villages.
The purposes of this article are to enhance understanding of Indonesia from a horticultural perspective, briefly review some of our collaborative horticultural work in Indonesia, and to stimulate thought regarding potential future university collaboration. The article is based on a workshop presentation made at the 2011 ASHS annual meeting in Hawaii (Davis and Hariyadi, 2011).
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