Huge loss of crop diversity seen in recent decades •

Despite the fact that scientists have been aware of the decline in crop diversity in agriculture over the past 100 years, many questions remain unanswered regarding the causes, magnitude and implications. A new study by agricultural research centers in North America, South America and Europe is the world’s largest study on the decline in crop diversity.

Experts have examined hundreds of primary data sources regarding the loss of crop diversity over the past 80 years. They found that changes in diversity were reported in 95 percent of cases, while 80 percent of cases produced evidence of loss of diversity. This is the result of climate, political, technological and agricultural changes over the past 100 years.

Lead author of the study, Colin Khoury, is a researcher at the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

“The overall picture that emerges from our review is that of a huge loss over a relatively short period of time of traditional agricultural diversity, which has been nurtured by many crops across the world over the past 10,000 years. ”Khoury explained. “However, the image is also hopeful, because a considerable diversity of cultures persists and because it shows that agriculture can be re-diversified.”

“The good news is that while we have found evidence of a huge loss of diversity over the past decades in each of the environments we studied, we have also seen significant maintenance of that diversity in some contexts, and even marked increases in specific cases, ”noted study co-author Stephen Brush.

Crop diversity allows crops to remain productive in the face of disease, pests and extreme weather conditions. Genetic variation between crops also contributes to dietary diversity, nutrition and food security.

“The extent of the loss of crop diversity that we have seen in some parts of the world underscores the importance of conserving this diversity outside of these ecosystems as well as within them,” said the co- author of the study Luigi Guarino.

“Collections of crop diversity such as those in agricultural genebanks and botanical gardens can mitigate local and regional losses, enable future restoration of diversity on farms, and preserve the availability of crops for future use by all.” . We need to strengthen these repositories and duplicate unique collections in other locations to insure against the risk of loss. “

Worldwide, there are currently 1,750 genebanks, maintaining crop diversity with over seven million crop samples. Additional efforts are being made by botanic gardens, community projects and universities. However, the recent study concluded that much more work will be needed to fully protect crop diversity.

“For crop diversity to continue to evolve alongside pests and diseases, in response to climate change, and to meet the demands for improved crops that provide both economic products and ecological services, we need to step up support for conservation efforts. in situ, or in the field, as well as ex situ“said study co-author Allison Miller.

The research is published in the journal New plant scientist.

Through Calum Vaughan, Editor-in-chief

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