Hi-tech helps crop wild relatives

Mr Peanut.png Our friend Andy Jarvis has been explaining to the readers of ICT Update not only how important crop wild relatives are, but also how geographic information systems can help conserve and make use of these important genetic resources. In the context of a longer article on Eco-efficient agriculture, Andy uses the peanut to point out that:

There are, for example, a total of 69 species of crop wild relatives that are in some way related to the cultivated peanut. Of these, 17 species are under significant threat of extinction from the expansion of the agriculture in Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Bolivia. Our analyses have demonstrated that a further 15 species are significantly threatened with extinction from climate change.

Jarvis and his team at CIAT use GIS and data from existing specimens to predict where important species might be found.

Collectors can then use global positioning systems (GPS), loaded with the data, to locate the vulnerable species and collect their seed.

Will that be enough to preserve the crop wild relatives on which the future of agriculture depends? Who knows. But it is a start.

P.S. In the same issue, Kwesi Atta-Krah, Deputy Direcctor General of Bioversity International, answers some questions about biodiversity, “the richest natural resource“.

Another feel-good crop wild relative story

When I saw news stories a short while back about a new peanut variety called Tifguard, famous for having resistance to both peanut root-knot nematode and tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV), the main question I had was where the resistance(s) came from. So I consulted our resident peanut expert, and it turns out that the nematode resistance gene in Tifguard came from the variety COAN. Which in turn got it from the wild relative Arachis cardenasii. And by conventional breeding, no less.

Although saying that glosses over the fact that Charles Simpson‘s introgression programme at Texas A&M sometimes involved making more than a thousand meticulous interspecific crosses just to get a single seed. Nobody ever said using crop wild relatives in breeding programmes was easy! Anyway, this is a truly exemplary case of what can be done to incorporate genes from crop wild relatives into improved cultivars using “conventional” breeding methods.

Not much A. cardenasii in GRIN or SINGER.1 GBIF adds data from a couple of herbaria, but in total we’re talking about no more than about 30 records or so, some of which are no doubt duplicates.

MUCH LATER: Follow-up, with live links!

  1. Although I’m sorry to say I wasn’t actually able to get SINGER to give me much more than the total number of accessions, and that after a bit of a struggle. Who knows, maybe our resident peanut expert can do something about that. Anyway, do let me know if you have better luck. []