The concept of minor fruit tree species is referred to a group of woody fruit trees not easily defined, which contains, generally underutilised species very often neglected in terms of attention from research and use, when compared to the so called major species often surplus product in Italy and Europe. The possible causes related to botanical, historical, social and commercial issues which hindered the diffusion and expansion of minor fruit tree species, with a glance to the bottle necks limiting the production chain in Italy (from the still un-inventoried germplasm, to the lack of efficient propagation techniques; from little studied horticultural management to the narrow knowledge on post harvest management, to the almost absent marketing policies) are reported. Taking into account the growing demand of fruits rich in nutritional and healthy active compounds, obtained by environmentally friendly production systems and free of pesticide residuals, it is underlined the potential of minor fruit tree species, often hardy and suitable for marginal areas, in order to diversify, in relation to their multifunctional value not only production. Persimmon and pomegranate, two typical minor species in Italy, are described for their diffusion, germplasm and cultivars, propagation, cultural practices, conservation and marketing, use of the product and potentials.
Keywords: germplasm, underutilised species, nutraceutical value, organic farming