Global climate change has raised serious concerns about food security and the sustainability of agriculture, particularly in developing regions of the world. In response to these concerns, attention should be called to the global importance of conservation of some neglected and underutilized crops, like Lythyrus species, which are nutrient-rich and already adapted to harsh environments and low-input agriculture.
Lathyrus cicera L., known in Morocco as ‘ikiker’, ‘kiker’ or ‘ichicher, is marginally cultivated in the region. Landraces of this crop species, which are maintained locally by traditional agricultural practices, correspond to ecotypes adapted to local agroclimatic conditions. We have surveyed the traditional cultivation sites of this crop to identify specific associated agroecosystems the Middle and High Atlas mountains of Morocco.
We have evaluated the diversity of ecotypes of Lathyrus cicera L. by a set of characters associated with the socioeconomic and agromorphological aspects of their cultivation. The results confirmed that their cultivation is very old in the area, and that its maintenance until today is important as the local farmers have started to master the uses for human and animal food. In addition, from a biology point of view, we have demonstrated the existence of variability depending on the trait considered but which demonstrates a differentiation between the ecotypes. From adaptive potential of these ecotypes with respect to tolerance to aridity and increased temperatures, the ecotypes studied showed promising prospects for selection. Thus, in spite of the limitation of the territory and the regression of the culture, the studied ecotypes have a very interesting germinative and productive capacity. This result can be explained by cultural practices.
These ecotypes are maintained in traditional agroecosystems which play the role of conservatory of neglected resources. The conservation of these genetic resources therefore depends on the conservation of the traditional agroecosystem and local knowledge.