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Wheat genetic resource experts at CIMMYT plot global strategy

July 7, 2006

The world’s keepers of wheat genetic resources must provide better access to seed and information from their collections, as well as meeting the rising demand for wheat’s wild relatives, DNA mapping populations, and genetic stocks. These conclusions emerged from a meeting of 12 internationally respected experts on the genetic resources of wheat, rye, and triticale. The specialists—who came from Asia, Europe, Australia, and North America—gathered at CIMMYT in Mexico 20-22 June 2006 to develop a global strategy for the conservation and use of the genetic resources of wheat and related species.

Participants decided on five priorities to reach the goals above: (1) developing an integrated information system on the world’s collections; (2) addressing deficiencies in the management of important collections; (3) ensuring that key collections are adequately backed-up; (4) addressing gaps in the genetic diversity conserved in global collections, with particular emphasis on wild relatives; and (5) augmenting collections of genetic stocks—materials that contain specific genetic characters, genes, or gene constructs.

The meeting was sponsored by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, an initiative founded by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI). “Wheat is probably the largest and most important crop, in terms of number of collections and accessions conserved by national programs around the world,” says Brigitte Laliberté, scientist at the Trust, which seeks to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for food security worldwide. “The proposed global wheat conservation strategy will guide the allocation of funds from the Trust to secure key reference collections in perpetuity.”