Increased attention for crop wild relatives2016-09-23
Gathering in Vilnius this week, specialists of crop wild relatives from 20 European countries, among them scientists, employees of plant gene banks and representatives of national authorities in charge of this field, for four days discussed guidelines of a strategy for the conservation of crop wild relatives and its general principles in order to create an integrated European network for the conservation of crop wild relatives. This event was a meeting of the participants of the Nordic project “Plant genetic resources for food safety and ecosystem services” and the European plant genetic resource programme “Development of national and regional crop wild relative conservation strategies”.
The activities of Lithuania in this field were presented by Dr. Juozas Labokas, head of the Laboratory of Economic Botany of the Institute of Botany at the Nature Research Centre.
In our country and worldwide, genetic diversity has been decreasing: agriculture uses a small number of species, so crop wild relatives or forms receive increased attention, and a search is conducted for genes that determine the adaptation and survival of plants under the conditions of climate change and intensified human activities.
Wild relatives are found practically in all latitudes. Although the wild relatives of most main crops such as wheat, barley, potatoes, etc. are widespread in southern countries, Lithuania also has quite a number of species that belong to this category. According to Laura Janulaitienė, senior specialist of the Nature Protection Division of the Ministry of Environment, the most well known wild relatives are those of our orchard plants. These are the European crab apple, European wild pear, blackthorn (a species under protection in Lithuania), raspberry, European dewberry, Rubus nessensis and Rubus plicatus, woodland strawberry and Fragaria viridis, blackcurrant, Nordic redcurrant and mountain currant. Among the garden plants, there are as man as 6 species of wild garlic (4 species, including wood garlic, under protection in Lithuania), caraway and various mint species (horse mint protected in Lithuania).