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Prem Nath and Sundari Velu

Among the vegetables, the cucurbitaceous crops form one of the largest groups with their wide adaptation from arid climates to the humid tropics. In Asia, about 23 edible major and minor cucurbits are grown and consumed. Though the data on cucurbits alone are not easily available, the production of watermelon was reported to be 69.7 million tons in Asia, 9.0 million tons in the Near East, 2.7 million tons in North and Central America, and 2.4 million tons in Latin America and the Caribbean (2003). Cucurbits demonstrate wide adaptability, which allows the crops to grow in varied agroclimatic conditions. Among food crops, cucurbits are the largest producers of biological water and are easily digestible. The cucurbits contain 80% to 95% water and also contain nutritive elements, such as carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, calcium, lycopene, phosphorus, potassium, and other properties, in addition to medicinal values. They are common crops in rural, urban, and peri-urban areas, and are accessible to both rich and poor. Even with the gradual increase in production and consumption, the production of cucurbits is plagued by the occurrence of diseases and insect pests, inadequate availability of quality seeds, lack of maintenance of genetic varieties and of naturally occurring biodiversities, and the lack of knowledge on the international standard of quality production and postharvest handling. The thrust areas of development, as identified, are: harnessing new sciences; diversification in cropping patterns; utilization of available genetic diversities; reversal of postharvest losses; and value addition in food products. Cucurbits hold promise as supplementary food for the common masses.

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Prem Nath and Sundari Velu

In a world that produces enough food for everyone, about 800 million people in the developing world do not have enough to eat. The important challenge facing agriculture in the new millennium is to eliminate chronic hunger. Safe and better quality food is equally important to ensure that people not only have sufficient energy but also the nutrients necessary for adequate productive lives. In order to release the pressure on cereals as well as to improve human nutrition through consumption of the other nutritious crops, diversification in cropping patterns provides better options, and horticultural crops, including vegetables with their wide adoption and providers of important nutrients, offer promise for the future. In this spirit and in the wake of the present global call for eliminating food and nutritional insecurity, the technologists, entrepreneurs, policy-makers and those interested in agriculture were invited to participate and contribute to fruitful discussion at the International Conference on Vegetables (ICV–2002), which was held 11–14 Nov. 2002 in Bangalore, India. About 700 participants from 37 countries across the globe participated in the conference, and a total of 621 papers were presented. The ICV–2002 addressed 13 theme areas, which included vegetable improvement in production, protection, underutilized vegetables, postharvest management, developmental policies and programs, marketing and trade including WTO policies and programs, and, finally, technical cooperation among developing countries. The salient recommendations of the ICV–2002 will be presented.