The climate is changing and our food crops will have to adapt to these changes. Crop wild relatives (CWR) are sources of important properties that can be incorporated into crops to allow this adaptation. However, climate change will also have a profound influence on the natural distribution of CWR, and thus on the future availability of CWR for crop improvement. In view of this, and because CWR have been included in ex situ germplasm collections to a limited extent only, it was considered highly opportune to organize a workshop to discuss the consequences of climate change for the conservation and utilization of CWR.
On 15 and 16 December 2015 this workshop was held in Barcelona, Spain. It was organised by the Centre for Genetic Resources, the Netherlands (CGN) in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, UK, and was attended by 35 invited participants from 21 countries. The participants included experts from universities, research institutes, genebanks, botanical gardens, museums, government departments, international organizations and private breeding companies.
In the framework of the workshop, 4 key presentations were given:
- The impact of climate change on patterns of CWR diversity: implications for in situ and ex situ conservation (Rob van Treuren, CGN, the Netherlands).
- Combining ex situ and in situ conservation strategies for CWR to mitigate climate change (Nigel Maxted, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom & Anna Palmé, Nordic Genetic Resource Center, Sweden).
- Shifting goal posts for pre-breeding: tapping ‘the wild’ to adapt agricultural systems to climate change (Jaime Prohens, Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain).
- Assuring access to CWR for the development of climate-ready crops in Europe (Hannes Dempewolf, Global Crop Diversity Trust, Bonn, Germany).
The Workshop took place in the context of the study launched by DG AGRI of the European Commission called ”Preparatory action on EU plant and animal genetic resources” (www.geneticresources.eu). This study started in July 2014 for a duration of 2 years, and aims to create an overview of actors, networks, activities and issues regarding conservation and sustainable use of GR in Europe.