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Abstract Detail

Crop Wild Relatives and Land Races: the Sky Islands of Southwest North American Agriculture

Hought, Joy [1].

Biodiversity conservation in context: Contemporary uses of crop landraces and wild relatives.

Native seeds/SEARCH is a public seed bank conserving 2,000 crop varieties historically cultivated in the Southwest United States and northwest Mexico. Much of the collection is made up of landrace contributions from more than 50 Native American communities with a contiguous history of farming in the region; the remainder are crop wild relatives, varieties from Hispanic villages, American heirlooms, Mormon varieties, and others. Corn, beans and squash comprise half of the collection but over 100 species are represented (e.g. cotton, amaranth, tomatoes, chiles, gourds, herbs, devil’s claw, watermelons, okra). The unique nature of the collection means opportunities for understanding plant science and agronomy in a cross-cultural context. NSS maintains both ex-situ and in-situ programs that conserve not only germplasm but the associated cultural and agronomic knowledge that have value for sustainable farmers of today. The pre-industrial cropping systems of this region have been successfully adapted to challenges such as low-fertility and saline soils, both marginal and intense rainfall, and high heat indices. Examples will be discussed of sophisticated phenotypic adaptations brought about by different biological and cultural environments; our in-situ approach aims to conserve these interactions but also to provide novel opportunities for economic development and cultural preservation for today’s young farmers. Approximately 10% of the seed collection is regenerated each year for conservation and distribution purposes. NSS currently uses a seed production model that preserves adaptations by growing seeds in their places of origin and on small-scale, limited-resource plots that are common to marginalized farmers. Important to the increased use of these arid-adapted plants will be better characterization of plant habits and agronomic traits under these conditions, particularly as climate change promises to strain the already limited resources of the Southwest. To support other actors in our region to contribute to biodiversity conservation and water-wise farming, seed is sold to the public but also distributed at no cost to groups in need including Native American households and school and community groups. We use a robust outreach approach that includes growing and seed-saving education, partnerships with regional small farmers, and research collaborations. This presentation will conclude with examples of applied research projects using the collection, including a SARE-funded partnership with a regional wine producer to use landrace and crop wild relatives as cover crops, and a collaborative tomato-breeding project in partnership with 23 Tucson-area high school science programs.

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1 - Native Seeds/SEARCH, 3584 E River Rd, Tucson, AZ, 85718, USA

In-situ ex-situ conservation
traditional ecological knowledge
crop wild relatives
interdisciplinary research
Participatory Plant Breeding.

Presentation Type: Symposium Presentation
Session: SYM4, Crop Wild Relatives and Land Races: the Sky Islands of Southwest North American Agriculture
Location: San Luis 1/Starr Pass
Date: Tuesday, July 30th, 2019
Time: 4:45 PM
Number: SYM4008
Abstract ID:1076
Candidate for Awards:None

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