Global analysis to save the wild side of staple food crops
Global efforts to adapt staple foods like rice, wheat and potato to climate change have been given a major boost as new research shows the whereabouts of their wild cousins. These wild relations could offer beneficial qualities to help major crops become more productive and resilient in the face of future climates and new threats.
This new analysis assesses 29 of the world’s most important food crops and reveals severe threats to just over half of their wild relatives, as they are not adequately saved in genebanks and not available to researchers and plant breeders for crop improvement.
The world's poorest will be hit first and hardest
Climate change is predicted to cause the substantial decline of agricultural production in the coming decades, and together with rising food prices, this will hit the poorest first and hardest. This global analysis forms part of a larger partnership to collect and conserve the wild relatives of the world’s major food crops.
The initiative, led by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (Crop Trust) in partnership with Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank and in collaboration with national and international agricultural research institutes, is the largest ever global effort to conserve crop wild relatives. These wild plants contain essential traits that could be bred into crops to make them more hardy and versatile in the face of dramatically different climates expected in the coming years. The Norwegian government is providing funding for this ten-year initiative. Find out more about how Kew is helping to strengthen food security.
Assessing the global conservation gaps for crop wild relatives
The three-year study, carried out by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and managed by the Crop Trust in partnership with Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, is the first of its kind to assess, on a global scale, the conservation gaps for crop wild relatives across the most significant crop gene pools. The University of Birmingham researched and developed a comprehensive inventory of these wild crop cousins, providing a foundation for the gap analysis.
“This is a major step forward in the global effort to make our food crops more resilient to the effects of climate change,” says Andy Jarvis, leader of CIAT’s Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area, which conducted the research. “Crop wild relatives are a potential treasure trove of useful characteristics that scientists can put to good use for making agriculture more resilient and improving the livelihoods of millions of people.”