Adapting agriculture to climate change: crop wild relatives

Written by Super User on . Posted in What We Do

ABCIC is pleased to announce that it has formalized arrangements to participate in the global project entitled, “Adapting agriculture to climate change : collecting, protecting and preparing crop wild relatives”.

The initiative, led by the Global Crop Diversity Trust will build bridges across intellectual spheres by drawing in climate change experts, biodiversity conservationists and agricultural scientists. Its implementation will bring a wide range of  institutions together, including national agricultural research institutes and botanical gardens in developing countries, the Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens (Kew), CGIAR Centres and the Secretariat and national focal points of the International Treaty.

Overview of the project
The rationale of the project is that adapting agriculture to climate change is one of the most urgent challenges of our time. There is, quite simply, no more important step that can be taken to prepare for climate change than to ensure that the crops that feed humanity are adapted. The need for new crop varieties that can be productive in the new climates of the future is now widely recognized. The greatest source of untapped diversity and in particular the richest source of diversity for adaptive characteristics needed to confront the challenges of climate change are the wild relatives of our crops. These resources are not only largely uncollected and therefore unevaluated and unavailable to plant breeders and thus to farmers, but many are also at risk of extinction. This project will ensure that crop wild relatives are collected, protected and made available for use in plant breeding programs in time to breed new crop varieties adapted to new climates. The project’s main objective is that a portfolio of plants, with the characteristics required for adapting the world’s most important food crops to climate change, is collected, protected and prepared in a form that plant breeders can readily use to produce varieties adapted to future climatic conditions that farmers in the developing world will soon be encountering.
The project focuses on the species related to 26 crops of major importance to food security. It will identify those crop wild relatives that are missing from existing collections and are most likely to contain diversity of value to adapting agriculture to climate change, and are most endangered; collect them from the wild; provide them to gene banks for conservation; prepare them and those that have already been collected for use in breeding crops for new climates; evaluate them for useful traits; and make the resulting information widely available. The pre-bred material incorporating the desired traits will be directly fed into ongoing, active and successful breeding initiatives aimed at helping poor farmers in developing countries increase food production, and made available to on-farm improvement efforts and farmers as appropriate. The entire project will run for ten years. It will introduce a range of new and exciting adaptive options for agriculture that might otherwise have been lost, whilst helping protect biodiversity from disappearing. The project will help build capacity in developing countries and will produce valuable information to assist in complementary on-farm and in situ conservation efforts. Moreover, it will advance implementation of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

ABCIC's inputs
ABCIC has entered into an agreement with CIAT and the Global Crop Diversity Trust to carry out gap analysis studies for the wild rice gene pool in Africa. The gap analysis protocol will be implemented with the aim of defining the extent to which current genebank holdings represent total genetic diversity within Africa. In addition, within the framework of the project’s capacity building activities, ABCIC’s expertise in applicatoion of GIS in species distribution, designing conservation priorities  and climate change modeling will be built through a Visiting Fellowship provided by International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) at its Headquarters in Colombia in 2012.