Conserving vulnerable vegetable germplasm

Providing plant seedbank
Maintaining banks of seeds
Preserving lost crop seeds
Recovering traditional cultivars
Protecting wild types of domesticated plants
Conserving landraces
Protecting rare plant varieties

With the expansion of agribusiness, companies are looking for crops which will grow rapidly and produce a standard plant. These crops fit well into the package and can weather long trips to the market. Hybridization has caused many different varieties of crops to all but disappear from the market. Plants have lost their regional differences with attention given to standardization. Among some of these lost crops are the howling mob corn, ice cream watermelons, and mortgage lifter tomatoes.

In traditional systems, genetic biodiversity is maintained both through cultural intervention and through natural selection. On the other hand, traditional cultivars have a twofold value that make them worth preserving: as germplasm repositories that can eventually be inserted into modern crops, and as a complex genetic bank adapted to specific environment conditions. To people living in developing countries, these cultivars have an additional value -- to allow production for self-subsistence where modern crops are either not available or not adequate.


Regional varieties are considered 'heirloom' crops. Their seeds are kept in circulation by small groups of gardeners swapping seeds. Organizations such as Seed Savers Exchange are helping small time gardeners to obtain seeds of regional varieties of crops and flowers.

The [Community Biodiversity Development and Conservation Programme] of the Netherlands Center for Genetic Resources is designed to unite two forms of crop improvement and conservation which operate side by side with little interaction. The institutional system linking genebanks with institutional and private industry, breeding, seed production and, ultimately, distribution to farmers. The non-institutional informal system is called the farmer/community system and uses local landraces and integrating conservation and utilization in a dynamic system of on-farm crop improvement and seed production. In most of the developing world the informal seed sector is much larger than the formal seed sector. The main difference is not between commercial and subsistence farms, but between crop types. It would be of great benefit for both systems if cooperation was established.


1. Overlooked crops are not truly lost; indeed, most are well known in restricted areas and to native groups. It is to the mainstream of international science and to people outside these populations that they are 'lost'. Moreover, most of these crops were developed by ancient peoples were established foods in centuries past.

Counter Claim:

1. Scant information exists on the use of indigenous and traditional varieties or landraces. Such plants are still utilised by subsistence farmers and are highly valued as a food source in rural areas, but there are no formal in-situ conservation programmes in place.

Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies