Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Beyond the Gardens - The Crop Wild Relatives Project

A MUST-SEE VIDEO from Kew Gardens ... beautifully filmed and highly watchable this film discusses the absolute priority of finding the wild relative seeds of important crops we rely on for our food supplies.

Plant science remains one of the least understood aspects of the work happening to mitigate climate change today! Please watch this video.

I came across this video through this article from All Africa News.

London — Gene banks are missing more than half the wild relatives of the world's most important food crops - which potentially harbour traits for higher yields, and resistance to disease and climate change - according to a study.
Scientists looked at 29 staple crops, including rice, wheat and potato, and found that around 240 of their 450 wild relatives need collecting and placing in gene banks. They published their findings on the Crop Wild Relatives website last week (22 July).
The five crops most at risk are eggplant, potato, apple, sunflower and carrot. Countries with the most threatened wild relatives include Bolivia, China, Ecuador, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, Peru and South Africa.
Over the next three years, a global network of partners led by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, based in the United Kingdom, will collect these relatives across the 30 countries where they have been identified. It will prioritise cereal crops important for Africa, including sorghum and finger millet.
The seeds will then be placed in long-term, back-up storage at Kew's Millennium Seed Bank in London.
The project will also make seeds available to researchers and plant breeders across the world so they can identify useful characteristics, and begin the 15 to 20-year process of developing improved crop breeds.
"We realise that crop wild relatives are essential for us to adapt to climate change," Jonas Mueller, international projects coordinator at Kew, tells SciDev.Net. "We need to give crops the means to defend themselves."
Over the past 10,000 years farmers have bred many useful traits out of crops, creating breeds that are often unsuited to new climatic conditions and that lack the rich genetic diversity of wild crops.
"Food crops are currently bred to a specific climate, but these conditions will change in the future," Mueller says. "The wild relatives of today's crops can help current crop varieties adapt."
The wild varieties may also be threatened by climate change, changes in land use and urbanisation, he adds.
For Mueller and his team, "farming communities in developing countries are the ultimate beneficiaries of this whole undertaking. I think it's an example of how science can help developing countries."
One aspect of this is that in some cases, the breeding of improved crops will take place in the countries where crops are grown, so there will be more immediate benefits for the countries, he says.
The study was carried out by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the Global Crop Diversity Trust in partnership with Kew's Millennium Seed Bank and in collaboration with agricultural research institutes worldwide.
It is part of a larger project, 'Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change', funded by the Norwegian government until 2019.


Velma Bolyard said...

i love thinking about the hope here.

Sophie Munns said...

I thought that too Velma ...
I've had an interesting morning.

Watched several short videos on seeds and the Millennium Seed bank and then someone rang the doorbell and it was Denise whom I met volunteering at the Seed Lab here in Brisbane and has since gone on to do many bush regeneration projects. We had a great chat about what she's doing now and I thought how much delight and contentment comes to all the wonderful peeps I meet doing this work... so many as volunteers!

The world sure does need seed stewards and the world need more of the kind of simple contentment and hope that comes from participating in timely work like this!

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