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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #366041

Research Project: Efficient and Effective Preservation and Management of Plant and Microbial Genetic Resource Collections

Location: Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research

Title: Distributions, conservation status, and abiotic stress tolerance potential of wild cucurbits (Cucurbita L.)

item Khoury, Colin
item KATES, HEATHER - University Of Florida
item Carver Jr, Daniel
item ACHICANOY, HAROLD - International Institute For Tropical Agriculture
item VAN ZONNEWELD, MARTIN - The World Vegetable Center (AVRDC) - Taiwan
item THOMAS, EVERT - Bioversity International
item Heinitz, Claire
item Jarret, Robert - Bob
item Labate, Joanne
item REITSMA, KATHY - Iowa State University
item NABHAN, GARY - University Of Arizona
item Greene, Stephanie

Submitted to: Plants, People, Planet
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/25/2019
Publication Date: 12/10/2019
Citation: Khoury, C.K., Kates, H.R., Carver Jr, D.P., Achicanoy, H.A., van Zonneweld, M., Thomas, E., Heinitz, C.C., Jarret, R.L., Labate, J.A., Reitsma, K., Nabhan, G.P., Greene, S.L. 2019. Distributions, conservation status, and abiotic stress tolerance potential of wild cucurbits (Cucurbita L.). Plants, People, Planet. 2(3):269-283.

Interpretive Summary: The wild relatives of domesticated pumpkins, squashes, zucchini, and gourds are useful for crop breeding, but may be threatened in their natural habitats and insufficiently represented in genebanks. We investigated the conservation status of the 16 wild relative species, finding that further collecting for seedbanks, and further habitat protection are needed to safeguard these important crop genetic resources.

Technical Abstract: Crop wild relatives are valuable genetic resources for crop improvement. Knowledge gaps, including with regard to taxonomy, distributions, and characterization for traits of interest constrain their use in plant breeding. These deficiencies also affect conservation planning, both with regard to in situ habitat protection, and further collection of novel diversity for ex situ maintenance. Here we model the potential ranges of all 16 known wild cucurbit taxa (Cucurbita L.), use ecogeographic information to infer their potential adaptations to abiotic stresses, and assess their ex situ and in situ conservation status. The taxa occur from the central USA to Central America, plus two South American species. Predicted taxon richness was highest in central Mexico and in the western borderlands between Mexico and the USA. We find substantial ecogeographic variation both across taxa and among populations within taxa, with regard to low temperatures, high and low precipitation, and other adaptations of potential interest for crop breeding. We categorize 13 of the taxa medium priority for further conservation as a combination of the ex situ and in situ assessments, two low priority, and one sufficiently conserved. Further action across the distributions of the taxa, with emphasis on taxonomic richness hotspots, is needed to comprehensively conserve wild Cucurbita populations.