Crop Wild Relative Conservation Initiatives in Ireland

Steps aimed at conserving a number of Ireland’s Crop Wild Relative species have been undertaken in recent years. Most of the efforts to date have focused on the ex-situ conservation of key species, mainly through development and management of genebanks.  Genebanks are facilities designed to conserve the genetic diversity of biological species. With plants this is mainly achieved through the freezing and storing of seed. There are a number of key organisations working to conserve CWR in Ireland at present:

  • In Ireland the Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine has direct responsibility for the coordination and promotion of measures for the conservation and utilisation of genetic resources for food and agriculture. In this task, the Department is supported by a national Advisory Committee on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.  The Department of Agriculture have a seed bank facility, focusing mainly on Irish crops, crop wild relatives and landraces.  They also run the Tops Potato Centre in County Donegal, where there are over 400 unique varities of potato stored. The potatos are held in both in vitro and in situ.
  • Genetic Heritage Ireland (GHI) is a non-governmental organisation whose main objective is to promote the conservation and sustainable utilisation of Ireland’s plant and animal genetic resources.  GHI along with Trinity College Dublin Botanic Gardens manage the Threatened Irish Plant Genebank.  Many of Ireland’s rarest species are contained within their specialist facilities.
  • Irish Seed Savers Association (ISSA) in Scarriff, Co. Clare is a non-governmental organisation whose aim is to research, locate, preserve & use traditional varieties, cultivars of fruit, vegetables, potatoes & grains.
  • The National Biodiversity Data Centre manages the national crop wild relative database, providing information on the distribution of CWRs in Ireland to support in-situ conservation strategies.