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Yen D. E. 1993. The origins of subsistence agriculture in Oceania and the potentials for future tropical food crops. Economic Botany 47(1)

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Authors abstract : Subsistence agriculture in the Pacific Islands has a complex prehistory centered on western Melanesia. Based on an analysis of cultigen provenience, a sequential model of a three-tiered crop structure of indigenous agricultural systems has been derived: 1) The independent early domestication of endemic species in the New Guinea region; 2) introduction of species from Southeast Asia 3) the advent of American crop plants.

The temporal sequence has archaeological and linguistic confirmation of 10000 years ago for the beginnings of agriculture, 6000 years for Southeast Asian introduction, with the sweet potato contributing in Polynesia in prehistory, and in Melanesia only in post-Columbian times. Recent research directed towards issues of domestication in New Guinea and subsistence prehistory in Australia on three genera, Canarium, Colocasia and Ipomoea, exemplify under-recognized resources with quite different potentials for economic botany.

Unlike past exploitation of indigenous plant resources, future users of plants such as those exemplified, and especially where commercialization is involved, cannot avoid addressing intellectual property rights that pertain to species domesticated, selected or conserved by peoples of the non-industrialized world.

In Yen's introduction, he mentions sending his collection of kūmara cultivars collected in NZ, to Japan for safe-keeping, and their return in 1988 by a Maori delegation.

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The origins of subsistence agriculture in Oceania and the potentials for future tropical food crops

Yen D. E.
Economic Botany

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12 June 2007
20 July 2020
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