A special issue dedicated to the conservation and utilization of crop wild relatives (CWR) has been published by Plant Genetic Resources Characterization and Utilization.

This special issue brings together ten peer-reviewed papers primarily presenting the results of a three year project on in situ conservation and use of crop wild relatives in the southern African region co-funded by the African Caribbean Pacific P Group of States and European Union through the ACP-EU Co-operation Programme in Science and Technology (S&T II). The special issue also includes contributions from other parts of the world including Finland, Turkey and Mexico.

Crop wild relatives are wild plant species that are relatively closely related to cultivated crops and include the ancestors of cultivated crops. Crop wild relatives are a critical source of adaptive traits / genes, including resistance to diseases, pests and stresses such as drought and extreme temperatures that can be used in plant breeding, with the potential to enhance sustainable food security in the face of challenges such as climate change and population growth. The importance of Crop Wild Relatives to sustaining future agriculture has been recognized internationally in Convention on Biological Diversity (Aichi target 13), International Treaty on PGRFA, FAO Global Plan of Action and The Sustainable development Goals (SDG 2- Zero Hunger) and has been valued at more than 120 billion US$ (PwC, 2013) per year. Despite their economic importance to agriculture and the role they have played in shaping our food crops over centuries, the conservation of crop wild relatives remains an under-funded research area. Shockingly global 72% of crop wild relatives taxa requiring additional ex situ collections (Castañeda-Álvarez et al., 2016) and there being no effective in situ conservation of crop wild relatives populations in nature (Maxted et al., 2016).

This special issue on crop wild relatives provides results on the identification of priority areas for crop wild relatives in situ conservation in the southern Africa region (Allen et al., 2019) and more specifically in Zambia, South Africa and Mauritius (Nguni et al., 2019, Bissessur et al.2019, and Holeness et al., 2019) It also describes the an interactive conservation planning tool developed within the project and used by the countries participating to systematically plan effective conservation (Magos Brehm et al.,2019). It also provides information on conservation planning and gap analysis of crop wild relatives diversity in Mexico (Contreras-Toledo et al., 2019), Turkey (Tas et al., 2019), the Nordic region (Fitzgerald et al.,2019) and Mediterranean basin (Philips et al.,2019).

Combining these research reports together, we are seeing the emergence of a movement to implement a global network for in situ conservation of crop wild relatives diversity, a goal championed by the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture that will prove a firm foundation for global food and nutritional security in the 21st century.

Volume 17 – Special Issue 2 – April 2019

To view all ten papers mentioned, the Special Issue is available here


Papers available in Plant Genetic Resources: Characterization and Utilization, 17(2):

Editorial: Special Issue: crop wild relatives Dulloo, M., & Maxted, N.

A crop wild relative inventory for Southern Africa: A first step in linking conservation and use of valuable wild populations for enhancing food security. Allen, E., Gaisberger, H., Magos Brehm, J., Maxted, N., Thormann, I., Lupupa, T., . . . Kell, S.

Crop wild relative diversity and conservation planning in two isolated oceanic islands of a biodiversity hotspot (Mauritius and Rodrigues). Bissessur, P., Baider, C., Boodia, N., Badaloo, M., Bégué, J., Jhumka, Z., . . . Jaufeerally-Fakim, Y.

Diversity and conservation priorities of crop wild relatives in Mexico Contreras-Toledo, A., Cortés-Cruz, M., Costich, D., Rico-Arce, M., Magos Brehm, J., & Maxted, N.

A regional approach to Nordic crop wild relative in situ conservation planning. Fitzgerald, H., Palmé, A., Asdal, Å, Endresen, D., Kiviharju, E., Lund, B., . . . Weibull, J.

Priority areas for the in situ conservation of crop wild relatives in South Africa. Holness, S., Hamer, M., Magos Brehm, J., & Raimondo, D.

New tools for crop wild relative conservation planning. Magos Brehm, J., Kell, S., Thormann, I., Gaisberger, H., Dulloo, M., & Maxted, N.

Spatial analyses of occurrence data of crop wild relatives (CWR) taxa as tools for selection of sites for conservation of priority CWR in Zambia. Ng’uni, D., Munkombwe, G., Mwila, G., Gaisberger, H., Brehm, J., Maxted, N., . . . Thormann, I.

An in situ approach to the conservation of temperate cereal crop wild relatives in the Mediterranean Basin and Asian centre of diversity. Phillips, J., Whitehouse, K., & Maxted, N.

Contribution of sugarcane crop wild relatives in the creation of improved varieties in Mauritius. Santchurn, D., Badaloo, M., Zhou, M., & Labuschagne, M.

Conservation gap analysis of crop wild relatives in Turkey. Tas, N., West, G., Kircalioglu, G., Topaloglu, S., Phillips, J., Kell, S., & Maxted, N.

Other References:

Global conservation priorities for crop wild relatives. Nature Plants 2: 16022 Castañeda-Álvarez NP, Khoury CK, Achicanoy HA, Bernau V, Dempewolf H, Eastwood RJ, Guarino L, Harker RH, Jarvis A, Maxted N, Müller JV, Ramírez-Villegas JA, Sosa CC, Struik PC, Vincent H and Toll J (2016)

Maxted N, Amri A, Castañeda-Álvarez NP, Dias S, Dulloo ME, Fielder H, Ford-Lloyd BV, Iriondo JM, Magos Brehm J, Nilsen L-B, Thormann I, Vincent H and Kell SP (2016) Joining up the dots: a systematic perspective of crop wild relative conservation and use. In: Maxted N, Ehsan Dulloo M and Ford- Lloyd BV (eds) Enhancing Crop Genepool Use: Capturing Wild Relative and Landrace Diversity for Crop Improvement. Wallingford, UK: CAB International, pp. 87–124.

PwC (2013) Crop wild relatives: a valuable resource for crop development. Price Waterhouse Cooper. [online]

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