Over the next decades, the world is expected to experience climate change that will likely bring about more extreme weather such as higher average temperatures and more variable rainfall. This will impact most food crops in tangible ways and in many cases agricultural yields are predicted to fall significantly.
Adapting agriculture to climate change is therefore an urgent challenge of our time. A critical step to prepare for a changing climate is to ensure that the crops feeding humanity are more resilient to the vagaries of the weather, by developing new crop varieties that can be productive in changing climatic conditions.
For agriculture to meet this challenge, plant breeders will need genetic diversity. The greatest source of untapped diversity, especially for the adaptive characteristics needed to confront the challenges of a changing climate, are the wild relatives of our domesticated food crops. These crop wild relatives are however threatened in their natural environment; they are also missing in crop collections and therefore not yet available for use.
Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Collecting, Protecting and Preparing Crop Wild Relatives
In response, the Crop Trust has embarked on a long-term effort to collect, conserve and initiate the use of the wild relatives of crops. It aims at identifying those wild crop varieties that are missing from existing crop collections, are most likely to contain diversity of value to making agriculture more productive, and are most endangered. These crop varieties are then collected from the wild and conserved in genebanks; evaluated for useful traits and prepared for use in crop improvement (pre-breeding) programs; and made available globally through their inclusion in pertinent information systems.