Biotech Updates

USDA Develops Inventory for Wild Relatives of Important Crops

February 5, 2014

Geneticists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the first-of-its kind inventory for wild and weedy relatives of important crops. According to USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist Stephanie Greene, the objective of the project is to aid the conservation of crop wild relatives and guarantee their accessibility as important sources of genetic diversity for economically important traits such as drought tolerance and disease/pest resistance.

The inventory is comprised of over 4,000 taxa from 194 plant families which are present in the U.S. It includes crop wild relatives of important crops such as sunflower, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, and stone fruits like cherries and plums.

Several native wild U.S. species have shown potential in ensuring the continued health and productivity of crops grown worldwide. A recent example is cultivated sunflowers worldwide, which have benefitted from wild North American relatives in the form of resistance to rust, sclerotinia, downy mildew, and other diseases and pests.