Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: September 5, 2008
Publication Date: September 16, 2008
Citation: Gardner, C.A. 2008. The importance and utilization of the genetic resources of cultivated species [abstract]. International Symposium: "Research for a Sustainable Development". p. 10-11. Technical Abstract: Plant genetic resources (PGR) have been utilized over the millennia to improve the human condition. Domestication of major crops such as corn, rice and soybean occurred between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago; more ancient domestication of potato occurred in the Andes and of tomato in Mesoamerica. Development of crops that provided stable supplies of food, feed, and fiber offered alternatives to nomadic existence, and enabled societies to develop and flourish. Today, we are challenged by the overwhelming success of our species' utilization of natural resources, by climate change, unstable weather patterns and political instability to sustain food production and natural resource availability, essential to peace, prosperity and society's stability. Production advances do not always progress in a linear fashion, but when genetics or production practice changes confer major advantage. For some major crops, productivity gains increased dramatically over the past 80-100 years as a result of application of new technologies, new insights and understanding, and the development and maintenance of plant genetic resource collections which serve as libraries of viable, well-documented PGR. Crop germplasm researchers use modern molecular genetic technologies, and well-documented germplasm collections of wild relatives, landraces and modern cultivars in order to understand adaptation, traits and phylogenetic relationships. Successful PGR conservation requires targeted acquisition, documentation, effective maintenance and regeneration programs to maintain original genetic profile and viability. Effective use of associated information for utilization and discovery, distribution of PGR to research communities, and pre-breeding activities all facilitate utilization. PGR conservation and utilization make varietal improvement possible to provide solutions for agricultural production challenges, the development of new crops and new uses, and improvements in health and nutrition. Yearly demand for well-documented PGR is increasing.