About this Research Topic
Adapting agriculture to climate change and global demands for more healthy and sustainable diets is one of the primary challenges for humanity in the coming decades. Biodiversity in our food production systems is essential to meet this challenge. Under-utilized plants and crop wild relatives are diverse resources that hold secrets for breeding more productive, nutritious, and resilient crops of the future. For many of these plants, however, little is known regarding basic biology, distribution, genetic diversity, and potentially useful traits critical for crop improvement.
Amaranths (Amaranthus spp.) are under-utilized, stress-resilient crops with enormous potential for future food and nutritional security. The genus contains several domesticated and semi-domesticated species, many local land races, little-studied wild species, and a few highly-adaptable agricultural weedy species, which together represents a wide spectrum of untapped genetic diversity. Cultivated amaranths have a long and important cultural heritage in the Americas and worldwide, and are increasing in popularity due to their favorable agronomic traits (e.g., rapid growth rates, C4 photosynthesis, and high tolerance to heat, drought, and salinity stress), high nutritional value, and versatility as ingredients for an expanding market of food and cosmetic products. Amaranths are thus exceptional, yet under-exploited, models for connecting fundamental and applied research; a link with substantial economic, agronomic, and human-health implications.
Despite their history of use, little genetic improvement of amaranth has been achieved. In addition, relatively few adaptive traits in either cultivated or weedy species have been fully characterized at the molecular and genetic level. Natural genetic variation in abiotic stress tolerance and photosynthesis are largely unexplored in most amaranth species, which have been described as both C4 plants and C3-C4 intermediates. New findings in recent years have begun to shed light in multiple areas of amaranth biology, ecology, physiology, and human-health benefits, yet many questions remain to be answered towards improving our understanding of agronomic and adaptive traits in the genus.
This Research Topic aims to gather the latest research on Amaranthus as resilient crops for the future and model plants for studies of abiotic stress, C4 photosynthesis, and rapid adaptive evolution. We welcome original research papers involving domesticated species, as well as their wild and weedy relatives, in a wide range of areas related, but not limited to, the following themes:
• Studies on species diversity and phylogenetic relationships
• Studies of crop-wild relative genetic diversity and germplasm resources
• Agronomy, breeding, and improvement of amaranth
• Morphological, anatomical, and physiological studies related to C4 photosynthesis in amaranth
• Proteomics and transcriptomics of amaranth responses to abiotic stresses
• Extraction, analysis, and biochemistry of phytochemicals, particularly those of nutritional and/or adaptive importance
• Health effects of amaranth, including hypertensive, hypolipidemic, antidiatbetic, and antioxidant properties
• Novel commercial applications of amaranth and its constituents
Descriptive studies in plants, including those using 'omics approaches, will not be considered for review unless they address further functional insights into a relevant physiological process.
Keywords: Amaranthus, Underutilized Crop, Abiotic Stress, Functional Foods, Bioactive Compounds, Crop improvement
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.