Five priority underutilised trees identified for domestication in West Java

Manglietia glauca, Parkia speciosa, Durio zibethinus, Gmelina arborea and Sandoricum koetjape have been identified as the top five underutilised species proritised for a participatory tree domestication programme for smallholders in West Java. This is according to a journal article by Narendra et al, published in Small-scale Forestry, which also states that these species are promising components of agroforestry systems and can enhance smallholder livelihoods.

8597320850_81ffc4939c_zThere are more than 4,000 tree species in Indonesia, but less than ten per cent of those have been studied in relation to wood properties and other utilisation. Smallholders and forest industries tend to utilise only a few species. These species are promoted by government, non-government and development organisations, easy to propagate and manage, their wood properties and other uses are well known, and their germplasm is easily available.

Lack of high quality planting material and the absence of adequate germplasm supply systems are common constraints for smallholders. Tree domestication is the accelerated anthropogenic evolution that brings species into wider cultivation through a farmer-driven or market-led process. It involves species selection, production, management and adoption of desirable germplasm, and then marketing of the product. The result is enhanced tree performance in terms of improved tree products or environmental services, and increased species awareness and market orientation.

Lesser known tree species are generally overlooked in tree domestication programs. ‘Underutilised species’ refers to species that may be exploited to some extent but do not currently approach their potential in smallholder agroforestry systems. There is little information regarding their use and little, if any, research has been conducted on them. They occur in the wild or are grown as scattered trees in tree garden systems. They are an invaluable source of genes for related crop species, and hold promise for economic development. The productivity of smallholder agroforestry systems can be significantly enhanced through the domestication of these underutilised species. Improving smallholder production systems, markets, productivity, sustainability and incomes is a key focus of the CGIAR’s Collaborative Research Project 6 on Trees, Forests and Agroforestry—of which the World Agroforestry Centre is a key partner.

The question arises: Out of thousands of underutilised tree species, which ones should we select for tree domestication programs? This tree prioritisation study set out to answer exactly that, aiming to identify priority underutilised tree species for a participatory tree domestication programme for smallholders in West Java.

The study was carried out in three villages of Nanggung sub-district, Bogor district via farmer surveys, focus group discussion, SWOT analyses, and evaluation of markets and germplasm sources. Respondents prioritised 27 underutilised tree species, which included fruit, spice and timber trees. For domestication, farmers prioritised M. glauca, P. speciosa, D. zibethinus, G. arborea and S. koetjape. All five species hold promise for multi-species, multi-product agroforestry to enhance smallholder livelihoods and can grow under the low management conditions common in smallholder systems. P. speciosa, D. zibethinus and G. arborea are well-known species with commercial value but are not fully exploited at the smallholder level. M. glauca and S. koetjape are indigenous species that are underexploited at all levels. D. zibethinus and S. koetjape primarily produce fruit. P. speciosa produces a spice. M. glauca and G. arborea are long- and short-rotation timber species respectively.

Furthering the domestication and utilisation of these species requires the identification and dissemination of high-quality germplasm sources, and the development of farmer-friendly propagation and tree management practices. Farmers will need to take an active role in marketing the products of these five species, starting with the production of reliable quantities of high-quality products. This is best addressed through a participatory domestication approach in which farmers and researchers collaborate to develop and implement a species-specific tree domestication program. That process has already begun through the prioritisation process reported in this paper.

Read the full paper here.

Download Microsoft Word version.

Narendra BH, Roshetko JM, Tata HL and Mulyoutami E. 2012. Prioritizing Underutilized Tree Species for Domestication in Smallholder Systems of West Java. Small-scale Forestry. . : P. 1-19.'

Rebecca Selvarajah

Rebecca is a science writer, manager of publishing projects, trainer in science writing, and novelist — working partly from Nairobi, Kenya and partly from Morwell, Australia. With over 15 years of experience in writing, advertising/marketing, publishing and social media, she takes on varied assignments, travelling, if needed, to conduct relevant research and interviews. Originally from Sri Lanka, Rebecca holds a BA honours in Psychology, with minors in Gender Studies and Sociology. Email Rebecca on

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