Plant Research Article by Dr. Noel Vietmeyer Published

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An article about underutilized food plants and agricultural research by celebrated author Dr. Noel Vietmeyer was recently published. The article is based on a keynote speech at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. It tells of the author's experiences discovering and promoting little-known plants with potential economic and social value.

An article by Noel Vietmeyer, Ph.D. entitled "Underexploited Tropical Plants with Promising Economic Value: The Last 30 Years" has been published in the Trees for Life Journal, announced Dr. Jed Fahey, editor-in-chief of the journal. The author, a celebrated plant science expert, relates experiences from his life as a "crop champion." The article is based on his keynote address at the recent conference Underutilized Plants: Their Role in Preventive Medicine, Nutrition, and Sustainability at the Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The article by Dr. Vietmeyer is available online at:

Dr. Vietmeyer spent his career discovering and promoting the nutritional and other human-friendly qualities of little-known plants around the world. "Through his life's work, he has saved countless lives and had an immeasurable effect on the quality of life for a large number of people in developing countries of the world," Fahey said. "His work is not widely known and never received much attention from the popular press, but he is revered by agricultural and food science experts who realize the immense public health impact his extraordinary body of work has achieved."

Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Dr. Vietmeyer received his B.Sc. degree from the University of Otago in 1963 and his Ph.D. in 1968 from the University of California. He remained at Berkeley as a lecturer in Chemistry until receiving a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Fellowship at Stanford University later that year. In 1970, Dr. Vietmeyer joined the staff of the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. and began his extraordinary research career. For the next 25 years he oversaw more than 40 Academy reports that stimulated interest in little-known plants and generated economic development in third world countries. These innovative studies had a great impact on agriculture and food production.

"In recent years," Fahey said, "Vietmeyer's discovery that barley malt can liquefy porridges has led to improved infant nutrition and decreased childhood deaths from malnutrition. His landmark book Underexploited Tropical Plants with Promising Economic Value has spawned a generation of fans and encouraged hundreds of scientists to take up the call and investigate his non-mainstream leads."

Vietmeyer's work with beneficial plants started with bringing more attention to jojoba. Unknown to the larger world at that time, jojoba oil is now used in many cosmetics and shampoos. Vietmeyer also highlights other plants such as guayule, winged beans, leucaena, calliandra, mangium and bracatinga that are natural resources with potentially great economic value and social benefit.

The Trees for Life Journal ( is an international forum on beneficial trees and plants. Its mission is to bring traditional knowledge to the attention of the scientific community, foster and propagate small-scale field studies of traditional claims to promote further scientific studies, and effectively translate scientific knowledge for application at the grassroots level. It is published online by the nonprofit organization Trees for Life (

Jeffrey Faus
Trees for Life

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Jeffrey Faus

Dr. Jed Fahey
Johns Hopkins University
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