Sustained agricultural production in arid and semi-arid areas of India is of vital importance for the life support systems of the country. Arid and semi-arid tracts of India cover around 1.26 million km2, which accounts for 38% of the countrys area. Trees in the agricultural fields are a common feature of arid and semi-arid landscapes. In fact, an adequate tree cover forms the basis of sustained agricultural production in the inhospitable environmental conditions of the arid and semi-arid tracts through conservation of land resources. Continuing over-exploitation of natural vegetation by ever increasing human and livestock populations has resulted in extensive deforestation with a consequent negative impacts on agricultural production systems.
The genus Prosopis contain 44 species and is spread throughout Africa, South America and South and South-east Asia. In the Indian sub-continent, P.cineraria, an endemic, and P.juliflora an exotic, occur throughout the arid and semi-arid areas. Scientists with far reaching future vision predict that two plant genera, Prosopis and Acacia, will have a major impact on mans survival. The species of Prosopis are outstanding in their adaptation to arid and semi-arid environments and man in such environs of the Indian sub-continent has used the genus since prehistoric times to meet his own needs as well as those of his livestock.
Between 21 and 23 November 1993, a conference on Prosopis was held at the Central Arid zone Research Institute, Jodhpur, India. The conference was attended by more than fifty Prosopis researchers from India and abroad. The main purpose of this conference was for scientists/researchers from different parts of India to congregate to analyse and discuss their experiences on the management, genetic improvement, biochemistry, pests and diseases, ecology and utilisation of various Prosopis species.
This publication, which has been jointly prepared by the Prosopis Society of India and The Henry Doubleday Research Association, UK, presents the transcription of the papers presented by the participants in the conference. Dr J.C. Tewari and Dr L.N. Harsh of CAZRI and Mr N. Pasiecznik and Prof. P.J.C. Harris of HDRA edited and compiled these papers in a systematic manner and this volume is the outcome of their dedicated efforts. I hope that this book will serve as a valuable new reference source for the genus Prosopis and will be able to convey the information on plantation forestry and agroforestry using the various species of the genus for the development of arid and semi-arid areas throughout the world.
A.S. Faroda, Director, CAZRI