Wild Progenitors of Key Domesticated Food Crops To Be Collected, Catalogued & Saved in Vault

wild rice photo

photo: IRRI Images/Creative Commons

One of the groups behind the Arctic doomsday seed preservation vault (that's not its official name...), the Global Crop Diversity Trust, has another plan in store for helping humanity survive the coming changes to our climate that will push our food production capabilities to the brink. As BBC News reports, scientists are now planning to collect, catalogue, store (and sometimes rescue from oblivion) the wild relatives of essential domestic crops--wheat, rice, potatoes and more.Ultimately the goal is to preserve seed from these plants in the seed vault, but before that much of the collected plant material will be used to conduct trials to determine what, if any, characteristics of these pre-domesticated plants could be used to help breed more climate-resistant varieties of existing crops.

Executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, Cary Fowler, explains,

All of our crops were originally developed from wild species. That's how farming began. But they were adapted from the plants best suited to the climates of the past. Climate change means we need to go back to the wild to find those relatives of our crops that can thrive in the climates of the future.

Contextualizing for a moment, it's worthwhile to point out that part of our increasing food security vulnerability, even outside places like Afghanistan and sub-Saharan Africa which have high food security risk for economic reasons, stems from the fact that over the past 50 years in our headlong rush to industrialize and "modernize" food production we have reduce the diversity of crops we grow. Where once many different varieties of, say for example, rice were grown, each chosen for the local growing conditions, now just a handful (if that) are cultivated. If those few crops either suffer from disease due to climate or are not as high yielding in future climatic conditions, humanity could easily be in for a period of famine.

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More on Food Security:
Arctic Doomsday Vault Now Has Half Million Samples - Becomes World's Most Diverse Collection of Saved Seeds
Afghanistan & Sub-Saharan Africa Have World's Greatest Food Security Risk: New Report
Japanese Government Animation Explains Global Food Security
How Will Food Security Be Affected by Climate Change, Energy Constraints & Water Availability?

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