To Climate-Proof Our Food Supply, Grow Wild Species
Species that survive in the wild are tough. This doesn't just apply to wild animals; wild relatives of crops have a whole host of traits that make them stronger than their common cousins that we know as the fruits, roots and vegetables we eat.
As the effects of climate change tighten their grip on our food supply, and higher temperatures and erratic rains make it harder for the world's farmers to grow the food we demand, we need to lean on these wild species. We need them to be available for plant scientists to use, to breed more resilient crops.
But there is a problem: a huge percentage of the wild crop relatives that are important for our future supply are under represented in genebanks around the world. According to new research published in Nature Plants this week, 765 species are in urgent need of collection.
This ranges from the wild relatives of sugarcane, maize, and millet, as well as well-loved fruits such as bananas and mangoes. If these wild species are not preserved in genebanks, we have no way to access the genes they may have developed for fighting particular diseases, or withstanding higher temperatures.