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Volume 2018, Article ID 1451894, 19 pages
Review Article

African Orphan Crops under Abiotic Stresses: Challenges and Opportunities

1Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
2Center for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
3Institute of Biotechnology, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Correspondence should be addressed to Zerihun Tadele; hc.ebinu.spi@eledat.nuhirez

Received 20 October 2017; Accepted 17 December 2017; Published 17 January 2018

Academic Editor: Prateek Tripathi

Copyright © 2018 Zerihun Tadele. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A changing climate, a growing world population, and a reduction in arable land devoted to food production are all problems facing the world food security. The development of crops that can yield under uncertain and extreme climatic and soil growing conditions can play a key role in mitigating these problems. Major crops such as maize, rice, and wheat are responsible for a large proportion of global food production but many understudied crops (commonly known as “orphan crops”) including millets, cassava, and cowpea feed millions of people in Asia, Africa, and South America and are already adapted to the local environments in which they are grown. The application of modern genetic and genomic tools to the breeding of these crops can provide enormous opportunities for ensuring world food security but is only in its infancy. In this review, the diversity and types of understudied crops will be introduced, and the beneficial traits of these crops as well as their role in the socioeconomics of Africa will be discussed. In addition, the response of orphan crops to diverse types of abiotic stresses is investigated. A review of the current tools and their application to the breeding of enhanced orphan crops will also be described. Finally, few examples of global efforts on tackling major abiotic constraints in Africa are presented.