More needs to be done to ensure wild relatives of our key food crops are conserved for future generations, a study published in the journal Nature Plants has said. Researchers are concerned the genetic diversity of these vital plants are not being adequately stored in gene banks.
They say characteristics such as drought or heat resilience could be lost forever unless action is taken to preserve these genetic traits. An international team of scientists found that “the diversity of crop wild relatives is poorly represented in gene banks”. In their assessment, they identified more than 70% of 1,036 wild relatives of 81 important food crops as a high priority for further collection. They added that 95% were “insufficiently represented in regard to the fill range of geographic and ecological variation in their native distributions”.
“The gene banks of the world are not, at the moment, doing as good of a job as they could be doing at maintaining and making available the diversity of crops’ wild relatives,” explained co-author Luigi Guarino, director of science and programs at the Crop Trust.