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Major global analysis offers hope for saving the wild side of staple food crops
Date:7/22/2013

Global efforts to adapt staple foods like rice, wheat and potato to climate change have been given a major boost today as new research shows the whereabouts of their wild cousins which could hold beneficial qualities to help improve crops and make them more productive and resilient.

The 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. 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.

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
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Contact: Bronwyn Friedlander
pr@kew.org
44-020-833-25607
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Source:Eurekalert

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