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Abstract Detail

Underutilized Crops for Secure and Green Futures

Knapp, Sandra [1].

Crop wild relatives – how much do we really understand?

The wild species related to our major crop plants are seen as an important resource of future improvement of food supplies in the face of widespread environmental change. They are also important components of biodiversity in their own right, and arguably they should be among the best understood of wild plant species. I will review the distribution of crop wild relatives in relation to angiosperm diversity as a whole and in terms of the contribution of this distribution to key elements of human nutrition; key families for understanding are grasses (Poaceae), legumes (Leguminosae), roses (Rosaceae), mustards (Brassicaceae), nightshades (Solanaceae), and daisies (Asteraceae). Drawing on my personal experience of working with the Solanaceae, I will highlight a series of challenges for understanding, and therefore utilisation of crop wild relatives for the future. The first of these is taxonomic – crop species can be very complex and taxonomically intractable - the cultivated potato, for example, has hundreds of synonyms – making their study unappealing for many. Another is distributional; many crop wild relatives are weedy species not traditionally collected by those interested in plant diversity. This means distributional records can be extremely incomplete, hampering their use in programmes designed to improve crops in the face of climate change. Herbaria are a key resource to making these data available, but how can they contribute in a targeted way to what on the face of it seem like questions outside their scope? The stability of the food system is clearly one of the pressing concerns facing human societies in the next decades – how can knowledge and understanding of the botany of the plant species related to crops contribute to what is essentially an economic problem? Crop wild relatives are a critical but underappreciated part of human society’s response to the twin issues of food security and biodiversity conservation – as botanists we need to work hard to be part of the solution.

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1 - Natural History Museum, Life Sciences, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 5BD, United Kingdom

crop wild relatives
food security.

Presentation Type: Symposium Presentation
Session: SY08
Location: Salon 17/18/The Shaw Conference Centre
Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
Time: 9:15 AM
Number: SY08004
Abstract ID:668
Candidate for Awards:None

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