Crop Wild Relatives
A crop wild relative (CWR) is a wild plant closely related to a domesticated plant
CWRs have contributed many useful genes to crop plants, and modern varieties of most major crops now contain genes from their wild relatives. CWRs are an important resource for maintaining sustainable agro-ecosystems into the future.
The National Biodiversity Data Centre supports the work of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) by maintaining high quality data on the distribution of Crop Wild Relatives (CWRs) in Ireland and making this information publicly available
- There are 181 Crop Wild Relative species in Ireland (Curtis, 2009)
- The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) compiled a list of Annex 1 Crop Wild Relative plant genera and species. Annex 1 plants are considered as a priority for conservation. Many of these species contain important genetic charatersitics essential to the future of many of the worlds most important economic plant species. Currently there are 102 known (ITPGRFA) Annex 1 species growing in Ireland. The species profile link provides information, photographs and distribution maps for these 102 CWRs.
- The FAO (Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations) (Anon, 1995) states: indigenous plant genotypes unique to Ireland may exist due to its isolation and westerly location to mainland Europe. The FAO also states that little is known of the plant genetic resources that exist in Ireland, particularly with regard to indigenous species in the wild. It is clear the potential for the existence of important genetic traits for CWRs and other plant groups in Ireland is significant. It is imperative the paucity of genetic data is tackled if Ireland is to understand and utilise the potential of its genetic resources for food and agriculture.
- Ireland’s National Potato Collection, which is conserved in the Tops Centre, Raphoe, County Donegal is one of the most important collections of native genetic resources held in the State. Comprising over 400 accessions, the collection includes old and modern Irish potato varieties as well as varieties from abroad. Some of the old varieties date back to pre-famine times (e.g. Lumper, Black Potato and Skerry Champion). The wide variation of genetic diversity contained within the varieties conserved in this collection ensures a broad genetic base of potato germplasm is maintained. Such diversity will be available to assist potato plant breeders facing the unknown challenges of the future such as climate change (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, 2010)
- Threats to Crop Wild Relatives across Europe include: population pressure, habitat loss, alteration and fragmentation, genetic and environmental pollution, alien and invasive species, changes in land management, grazing pressure, climate change and lack of coordination, commitment and financial support to genetic conservation (Kell et. al. 2007).
Anonymous (1995) Ireland: Country report to the FAO International Technical Conference on Plant Genetic Resources (Leipzig 1996). Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Dublin
Curtis, T. 2009. Final Report on the Project: The production of a priority list of crop wild relatives for Ireland. Irish Department of Agriculture.
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (2010). http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/farmingsectors/crops/seedcertification/topspotatocentre/
Kell, S.P. Knupffer, H. Jury, S.L., Maxted, N. & Ford-Lloyd, B.V. (2007). PGR Forum:serving the crop wild relative community. Bocconea.