Duke and deuCellier have produced a book that will be of interest to anyone involved in the commercial production of alternative crops. The title, however, is a little misleading, as it falls to clarify that the 128 plants detailed in the work are tropical alternatives to conventional tropical crops. Therefore, if you are expecting to find well-known medicinal herbs such as Echinacea, Ginkgo, or Milk Thistle, you will be disappointed. However, for the plant material that is included in the book, you will find more detailed information on production parameters than in any other single volume.
Take Capsicum annuum for example. Under this entry, as in the other entries in the book, is information on uses which provides a good overview of diverse utilization of the plant group and its many cultivars. Following uses are details on folk medicine in various traditional medicine systems, including those of China, Indonesia, South America, Central Africa, Hawaii, and elsewhere. While focusing on better-documented folk uses, the authors also strive to uncover the obscure, as possible research leads for scientists using the book. Data on chemistry follows, with a complete rundown of vitamin and minerals found in the fruits, along with bioactive compounds, and detailed information on specific uses of individual compounds or chemical groups, including pharmacological data. A good overview of toxicity reports is included at the end of the chemistry section. Next comes a detailed description of the plant, including essential information for clearly identifying the plants encompass ed in the taxon. Germplasm follow the description entry, enumerating cultivars of sweet peppers, information on cultivars of the Mango Pepper, its centers of diversity and tolerance to diseases, pests, smog, and other parameters. It also reports on isoenzyme studies used to distinguish various taxonomic delineations. Distribution information describes regions in which the plant group originates and other parts of the world in which it is grown. Ecology follows distribution. This section contains excellent figures on high and low temperatures affecting both plant growth and fruit set, soil parameters, irrigation data, and life zones, among other information. The cultivation facts which follow provide the potential grower with all the minutae necessary for decision processes at each stage of propagation and growth. The harvesting section details time periods of fruit maturity, optimum harvesting conditions, drying parameters, and post harvest handling methods. Yields and economics enu merates countries of production, yield data, prices, and world statistics, along with sources of the extract, oleoresin, capsaicin, and crude plant material. Next comes energy, providing statistical data on what it takes to produce a crop in terms of water needs, and biomass contributions to production. The biotic facts section provides a detailed and complete listing of the organisms known to pollinate, or attack the plant. Under Capsicum annuum 150 species of fungi, insects, and bacteria are included. The book is referenced throughout, and the extensive bibliography contains more than 600 entries.
In short, if you are involved in crop production, use, development, or are just interested in detailed information on economically important plant species, this volume is a necessary addition to your library. While you won't find all of the plants in this book that you may like information on, you will find few other references which include as much detail as this important work.
Article copyright American Botanical Council.
By Steven Foster