What are Wild harvested plants?

A wild harvested plant is one which can be gathered from its natural environment without the direct intervention of human management. These plants were of great importance in the survival of the early hunter-gatherers. Many wild harvested plants are also Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) and are genetically related to the domesticated agricultural and horticultural crops of today.

Why is it important to conserve wild harvested plants?

Wild harvested plants (including CWRs) are recognised as a priority for conservation, as many species contain important genetic characteristics essential for the future of many of the world’s most important crops.  These genetically diverse plants are a potential important resource for maintaining sustainable agri-ecosystems into the future.

How are wild harvested plants conserved?

There are two forms of conservation:

in situ: Where the plant is continually grown and sustainably harvested in its original habitat

ex situ: Where seeds, plants, plant parts, tissues or cells are preserved in an artificial environment. The most common form of ex-situ conservation is through storage of material in gene-banks. The seeds are typically stored in laminated packets which are placed in containers and kept frozen at -18°C.

What is being done in Ireland?

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is responsible for the conservation of genetic resources in Ireland. A number of other organisations and institutions assist in this task: Irish Seed savers Association, National Botanic Gardens and Trinity College Dublin.

Ireland is one of 193 countries who have committed to the Convention on Biological Diversity. This commitment gave rise to the National Biodiversity Plan which aims to reduce of the rate of biodiversity loss in Ireland.

What is happening worldwide?

There are a wide range of international organisations involved in the conservation and policy making in relation to crop wild relatives around the world. See Global CWR conservation and policy.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) support the implementation of the Global Strategy for Plant conservation (GSPC), which has 16 targets; Target 12 focuses on the sustainable sourcing of all wild-harvested plant-based products.