crop wild relatives and their potential for crop improvement
Crop Wild Relatives (CWR), like many plant species worldwide, face increasing threats in many regions from habitat destruction, transitions in agricultural practices, and invasive species, among other factors. Although the weedy nature of many CWR may make this group of plants more resilient to human impacts than more sensitive plant groups, a substantial proportion of CWR are limited in distribution, rare, and/or endemic, and will certainly benefit from close monitoring and, where needed, protection.
Due to their very direct utility in contribution to food production, it is surprising that CWR as a group have not yet become a central example of circumstances in which conservation and food production/development goals overlap and support each other. Perhaps it is because people don’t find plants as easy to relate to as animals; certainly it is partly the fault of the agricultural research and conservation communities for a lack of comprehensive information on CWR distributions, importance, and conservation status, and a failure to relate this information to the public in a meaningful way.
Madeline Fisher has just published an article in CSA news, the magazine of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, on progress in the US toward a more comprehensive analysis of the conservation of CWR. It is is a good example of how the community can translate scientific concepts into interesting and compelling stories. Find the article here and the magazine here.