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July 21, 2018

Wild plants related to maize, rice and wheat missing in crop banks

A rice farm at Koyonzo in Matungu district. Photo/File
A rice farm at Koyonzo in Matungu district. Photo/File

Many of the wild plants that will be used for future food supply have not been conserved in crop banks according to a new research.

The research stated that distant cousin of food crops like maize, wheat, rice and potato which are important for plant breeders in the fight against climate change have not been collected and conserved in crop banks.

Nora Castaneda, the author of the study and a scientists at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture said many of these so called crop wild relatives have not been conserved in the genebank yet they possess valuable genetic biodiversity.

She added that many of their habitats are under threat from urbanization, pollution, deforestation, climate change and war.

"These wild plants can be used to develop crops capable of adapting and thriving under the impacts of climate change, increased soil salinity and pests and disease outbreaks,” she said.

The research published in the Nature Plants journal stated that over 70 percent of total crop wild relatives species are in urgent need of collection and conservation to improve their representation in genebanks.

"There are big gaps for many crops and in many regions. It is now clear that scientists around the world are in a race against time to collect and conserve many of the most important plant species for future food security,” she said.

The research also named food crops like banana, cassava, sorghum and sweetpotato, pineapple, carrot, spinach, and many other fruits and vegetables as being in urgent need of collection and conservation.

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