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2019-09-22

Crop relatives culture

The mission and activities of the Israel Gene Bank are to provide humanity with the tools it needs to deal with future crises in the global food supply.

Human activities and natural processes are causing enormous environmental changes. Population growth, accelerated urbanization, massive construction, and changes in land use (for construction or agriculture) are the major factors driving these changes and are causing in a decline in biological diversity and even the extinction of species.

The planet is experiencing radical changes in environmental conditions, such as global warming, changes in the frequency and dispersion of precipitation, and extreme weather events. Increased population density and growth undermine global ecosystems and harms the global food supply.

Droughts have come more frequent in recent years and are contributing to desertification and water shortages, which are harming our ability to guarantee the amount food that will be required in the future and its quality. Expected temperature increases may exacerbate plant pathogens and lead to disease that will seriously harm the global food supply. Food quality will likely be affected; to improve food quality we must increase the diversity within each species.

The challenges faced by the planet are so complex that not all changes can be predicted. We must therefore conserve all the genetic potential available to us from plant sources.

Wild plants are an important source of genetic material to improve cultivars and may be able to provide crops with resistance to diseases and other environmental stress conditions.

Changes in environmental conditions may cause specific characteristics to dissipate or for an entire species to disappear. Without the conservation of these genetic resources, we will not be able to reintroduce useful characteristics in the future when they are needed.

Due to its location in the Old World where many types of crops were first cultivated, Israel plays an important role in the preservation of species. Many of the food crops that are the foundation of human nutrition in the Western world are found in Israel. Israeli flora include important wild crop relatives, such as cereals, pulses, animal fodder, medicinal plants and herbs, fruit trees, etc. Around 10% of wild plants in Israel hold economic potential. These genetic plant resources have the potential to improve future cultivars with important agricultural characteristics, such as increased crop yields, resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, increased content of important nutrients, etc. They will also play a role in long-term environmental research.

Researchers already use wild plants in Israel to improve cultivars, a process that will only intensify as environmental changes increase and there is a greater need to expand the food supply. Without preserving the aforementioned plant genetic resources, we will lose the ability to improve the most important food crops such as wheat, barley or animal feed (oats, chickpea, alfalfa, clover). These genetic resources will help us address the food crisis that humanity is facing.

 







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