There are different species and hundreds of varieties with the potential to improve food security and reforest lands made barren by development and natural disasters. When studying the botany and ethnobotany of breadfruit trees, researchers find the physiology, structure, and genetic make-up of these trees as diverse and fascinating as the different cultures that have used them for survival for thousands of years. By conserving these trees in our living collection and in vitro in laboratories, we preserve a critical resource that has led to the distribution and cultivation of trees to alleviate hunger and poverty, and reserve their place in history.
Breadfruit is an energy-rich food and a good source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and minerals such as potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, and zinc. This nutritious fruit also provides B vitamins, niacin, thiamine, and Vitamin C. Some varieties have high levels of provitamin A carotenoids, nutrients essential to good health. Breadfruit is gluten free and its protein is complete, providing all of the essential amino acids necessary for human health. In a world with nearly 1 billion hungry people, 80% of whom live in the tropics, the conservation, study and use of breadfruit is extremely relevant today.
Breadfruit is an important component in traditional agroforestry systems and can be grown with a wide range of plants. Trees begin to bear fruit in three to five years, producing for many decades. The trees require little attention or care, producing an abundance of food with minimal input of labor or materials, and thrive under a wide range of ecological conditions. Breadfruit trees provide food security, and contribute to diversified regenerative agriculture and agroforestry, improved soil conditions and watersheds, and valuable environmental benefits including reduction of CO2. They also give shelter and food to important plant pollinators and seed dispersers such as honeybees, birds, and fruit bats. In addition to health and environmental benefits, breadfruit trees can provide economic opportunities.