Crop wild relatives help adapt agriculture to climate change

Wild Sunflowers (Credit: Luigi Guarino, Global Crop Diversity Trust)

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership has begun work to collect seed from the wild relatives of 26 crop plants as their genetic diversity may enable us to adapt agriculture to future climates. Guest blogger Dr Ruth Eastwood is Crop Wild Relatives Project co-ordinator, based at RBG Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, UK.

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The seed social network

More varieties of cowpea seed give farmers more resilience against environmental extremes © IITA

A new study by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) looking at cowpea crop diversity following floods and drought in Mozambique has shown that seed sharing networks are a valuable way to maintain, and often improve, crop diversity. Informal sharing and trade of seed within and between local communities in the Limpopo River Valley, Mozambique has been specified as the reason for a relatively quick recovery of cowpea crop diversity following floods and drought in the area in 2000. The study showed that farmers who grew ‘relief seed’ distributed by humanitarian agencies, or bought seed from the market did not have much diversity in their cowpea crops. However, the farmers who exchanged seed as they had done before the disasters contributed the most to restoration of cowpea diversity in the area.
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