Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Plants, Soils, and Climate

Committee Chair(s)

Brent Black


Brent Black


Daniel Drost


Grant Cardon


Randy Williams


Agricultural production among the Native American populations of the Southwest declined significantly during the twentieth century. Corn, beans and squash, the three most recognized traditional food crops, remains widespread, but knowledge regarding the traditional management of these crops was lost. The loss of traditional knowledge for Southwest Indigenous Nations was more pronounced for the Southwest peach (Prunus persica) and Navajo spinach (Cleome serrulata Pursh). The Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni Nations are all seeking to increase the availability of traditional crops for their original uses, such as for food and wool dye. In order to revitalize traditional agriculture for these tribes, information regarding these crops was gathered, including: variety characterization, the horticultural basis for traditional management practices, and cultural uses and significance. Southwest peach orchards were located for seed and plant material collections to characterize their genotype and relate them to modern peach cultivars. Traditional farmers were interviewed on management practices and irrigation strategies to correlate to dendrochronology (tree-ring analysis) techniques. Dendrochronology samples included tree stumps or cores to evaluate ring growth variability, age, and life span of the orchard trees. Navajo spinach seed was collected from Chinle, Arizona for germination studies on overcoming seed dormancy. Information on both Southwest peach and Navajo spinach will be useful to encourage culturally important traditional crop management.