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Research Project: Plant and Microbial Genetic Resource Preservation and Quality Assessment

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Title: Conservation and use of the North American Cornucopia: the way forward

item Khoury, Colin
item Greene, Stephanie
item Williams, Karen
item KANTER, MICHAEL - University Of Hawaii
item MAREK, LAURA - Iowa State University

Submitted to: North American Crop Wild Relatives
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/7/2017
Publication Date: 4/2/2019
Citation: Khoury, C.K., Greene, S.L., Williams, K.A., Kanter, M.B., Marek, L.F. 2019. Conservation and use of the North American Cornucopia: the way forward. In: Greene, S.L., Williams, K.A., Khoury, C.K., Kantar, M.B., Marek, L.F., editors. North American Crop Wild Relatives. Volume 2: Important Species. New York, NY: Springer, Cham. p. 695-710.

Interpretive Summary: The plants that make up North America’s native cornucopia span the full spectrum with regard to recognition of their historic, current, and potential future uses, from some of the world’s most celebrated plants, to a long list of underutilized species that, given the equally long set of compounding challenges to the persistence of wild plant populations, may disappear before most of humanity has the opportunity even to be introduced to them. In this summary and final remarks chapter on the book “North American Crop Wild Relatives: Conservation and Use”, we provide an overview of the diversity of useful wild plants in the region, and discuss how conservation and use of these plants can be improved for the public good. Conservation exists in many forms both in protected areas and in genebanks and other ex situ repositories, but further coordination, integration, gap analyses, and long term support are needed to comprehensively safeguard our regional cornucopia. Likewise, efforts to document and use this diversity could be strengthened via novel collaborations among organizations, fields, and countries, and by learning from successful efforts to diversify food and agricultural systems.

Technical Abstract: The pages of this extensive book document the potential of a great many North American plants to enhance the productivity, sustainability, and nutritional quality of crops, or to be further developed into important cultivated species in their own right. But this potential can only be realized if the plants are adequately conserved to ensure their survival and availability for research, invested in to promote their development, and marketed so as to be attractive to producers and consumers. We outline some of the key steps needed to boost the conservation and the use of our regional cornucopia. In situ and ex situ conservation of North America’s useful plants are being accomplished by a variety of institutions with different mandates, but habitat destruction and other threats to wild populations continue to negatively impact many species. Information sharing, coordinating efforts, filling research gaps for wild plants, and increasing support for conservation will be necessary to more comprehensively safeguard these plants and to make them available for use. Technologies enabling more efficient exploration of the diversity within these species are rapidly advancing and offer the potential to contribute to quick advances in improvement of cultivars, but considerable further research and partnerships are needed to generate and share the results widely. Marketing of new crops can take advantage of the increasing public interest in diverse and nutritious foods, learning from successful collaborations between producers, researchers, and consumers. As a whole, North America already possesses a strong foundation from which the conservation and use of its flora can be enhanced. This includes vast protected areas, strong conservation institutions, innovative research, and the willingness to collaborate across fields, institutions, and borders.