Nordic Crop Wild Relatives – conservation for a more resilient Nordic agriculture


Coordinator: Anna Palmé, NordGen, anna.palme@nordgen.org

Period: 2020-2021


A major future challenge of mankind is to adapt agriculture to climate change, increase efficiency to assure food security, and at the same time minimize the impact on environment and climate. One of the tools available to achieve this goal is to develop new, well-adapted plant cultivars and cultivation systems. Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) are one piece of the puzzle needed to achieve this goal.

The Nordic CWR network was initiated in 2015 and has achieved substantial progress regarding Nordic level conservation planning, networking and communication (see the report at http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:norden:org:diva-5664).

Crop Wild Relatives

A Crop Wild Relative (CWR) is a wild species that is closely related to a cultivated crop. This close relationship means that properties in a CWR can be transferred to the crop in question by traditional plant breeding approaches. As modern cultivars may lack the desired variation, diversity found in CWR can be central for adaptation to new demands on the crops. CWRs can for example contain variation in resistance to pests and diseases, tolerance to cold, waterlogging or adaptation to the large seasonal differences in day-length in the Nordic region.

The main approach for conserving CWR is to maintain them in their original environment, under so called in situ conservation. This is an efficient form of preservation since many species can be conserved at the same time within protected habitats and there is a better potential to maintain large amounts of useful variation. Importantly, this increases the chances for long-term survival and creates opportunities for adaptation to ongoing climate change. Ex situ conservation, for example in seed gene banks or field gene banks, has an important role as backup if the in situ conservation fails and as a mechanism for facilitating access to CWR genetic resources.

Long-term aim

The long-term aim of this project is to contribute to a more resilient Nordic agriculture by conserving the raw material (genetic resources) needed for adaptation of agricultural plants to climate change, including extreme weather events. The network aims to achieve Nordic synergy in the field of crop wild relative conservation and sustainable use, and to facilitate Nordic cooperation on this topic.

Expected project outcomes

  • A travelling exhibition on CWR (in the 5 main Nordic languages): outdoor posters and electronic material
  • An information folder on CWR (in the 5 main Nordic languages)
  • A two-day stakeholder meeting in Oslo Botanical Garden in 2021 focussing on communication, in situ conservation in practise, and knowledge exchange.
  • Maintenance and updates of the Nordic CWR homepage (nordgen.org/CWR), including plant portraits (also advertised on social media)
  • Applications for additional funding for the Nordic CWR work
  • Strengthening of the existing Nordic CWR network