Sri Lanka's traditional agro-biodiversity
Sri Lanka is considered as a valuable repository of crop germplasm and agro-biodiversity. It has a rich treasure of rice genes and over 2,800 varieties have been recorded in the country. These varieties show great adaptability to a wide range of climatic and soil conditions and pest and disease problems. They also exhibit variation in grain size and quality, some with medicinal properties and fragrance and others that are used for cultural and ritual reasons also show differences in maturity period.
Besides rice, germplasm of Sri Lanka is also rich in cereals, including millets, sorghum and maize; legumes, including cowpea, soybean, winged bean, ground nut, pigeon pea; banana and other fruits such as citrus, mango, avocado, jak fruit; root and tuber crops; medicinal plants; leafy and other vegetables; spices including pepper; cardamom; betel and chillie. Among these are 500 selections of pepper and several wild species. There are ten wild races of cardamom, and several indigenous varieties of betel and chillie. Similarly, there are many varieties of vegetables such as cucurbits, tomato and eggplants. Selection and cultivation of crop plants over several thousands of years by various traditional and modem farming practices and the country's eco-edaphic variability are two reasons for high genetic diversity of crops in Sri Lanka.