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Making New Crop Diversity Available

The world’s climate is changing and that creates new challenges for farmers and plant breeders. The crop diversity held in genebanks around the world has the potential to provide some solutions to these challenges. This includes new sources of tolerance to stresses such as drought, heat and waterlogging; new sources of resistance to diseases that are spreading to new areas and becoming more virulent; and new sources of more nutritious foods.

The Crop Wild Relatives Project, which came to an end in December of 2021, demonstrated this potential in wild relatives. After countless crosses and backcrosses, the Project generated breeding lines which were then evaluated for traits such as drought tolerance and disease resistance that would be useful to plant breeders.

Pre-breeding — crossing crop wild relatives with domesticated crops — incorporated these traits or some components thereof into plants that plant breeders could work with more easily than the wild relatives themselves.

BOLD is continuing these efforts to broaden the genetic base of seven key food and forage crops: alfalfa, barley, durum wheat, finger millet, grasspea, potato and rice. The Project will work with partners in 20 countries, with lead organizations including two developing-country partners, two CGIAR centers and two centers of excellence in bioinformatics and plant breeding. Farmers and other stakeholders are actively engaged in breeding and testing the resulting products in the field, thus ensuring that these efforts meet the needs of farmers and the demands of consumers.

BOLD will also fund a project to support data generation and management, including sharing, visualization and analysis. This builds on the successful collaboration with the James Hutton Institute during the Crop Wild Relatives Project using the Germinate platform.

This work will ensure that the crop diversity conserved in genebanks is more widely used in breeding new, climate-resilient crops in support of climate change adaptation and food and nutrition security.

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