National Research Council of Italy

Institute of Biosciences and Bioresources

Conservation, Evaluation, and Utilization of Biodiversity

Pignone D, Hammer K

In: “Genomics and Breeding for Climate-Resilient Crops”(Kole C. eds). Springer, Heidelberg (DEU), pp. 9-26. [ISBN: 978-3-642-37044-1]
doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-37045-8

In 1984, Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) were defined by the International Undertaking of the FAO as the entire generative and vegetative reproductive material of species with economical and/or social value, especially for the agriculture of the present and the future, with special emphasis on nutritional plants. Within the last 100 years, with powerful support from the "plant genetic resources movement" since about 1970, large collections of PGR have been built up in genebanks as a reservoir for present and future tasks for breeding research and plant breeding. The disappearance of landraces and other materials, including in their centers of diversity, became evident (genetic erosion). The speeding up of the loss of species (extinction) initiated the global biodiversity discussions in the early 1980s. Extinction and genetic erosion are both driven by climatic change. Impending more significant damage through climatic change and global warming has led to conservation activities, which are largely based on in situ methods. But they are also useful for the conservation of wild relatives of crop plants and complement the ex situ approach of the genebanks. The uses of PGR for improving the ability of crop plants to cope with the results of changing climate are described. They include newly introduced crop plants from wild progenitors, neglected and underutilized crops, and new plant combinations. The evaluation of PGR has to be intensified in order to obtain material with the desired characteristics (heat resistance, drought resistance, salt resistance, stress resistance). Germplasm enhancement is necessary to obtain material that can be used by breeders


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