Crop Wild Relatives
Crop wild relatives are wild plant species that are genetically related to cultivated crops. Untended by humans, they continue to evolve in the wild, developing traits – such as drought tolerance or pest resistance – that farmers and breeders can cross with domesticated crops to produce new varieties. They have been used to improve the yields and nutritional quality of crops since the beginnings of agriculture.
Farmers often plant them alongside domesticated crops to promote natural crossing of beneficial traits. Genes from wild plants have also provided cultivars with resistance against pests and diseases and improved tolerance to abiotic stresses.
Unfortunately, occurring as they do in untended lands, Crop wild relatives are vulnerable to changes in land use patterns due to growing cities and climate change. Many are at risk of extinction. Their vulnerable position is compounded by the fact that crop wild relatives fall between the agricultural and conservation agendas: agriculture looks at tended lands, conservation does not focus on agricultural resources.