Newswise — Sept. 18, 2018 – The Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) is celebrating Crop Wild Relative Week September 22-29, 2018. The week was created by the scientific society to raise awareness of the valuable wild relatives of familiar crops.

Today’s agricultural products benefit from having cousins, just like human families. Crop scientists refer to these cousins of today’s domestic crops as ‘crop wild relatives.’ It’s not because they act wild and crazy; it’s because they often grow in wild landscapes and have evolved in response to sometimes severe environments on their own. They have not had any changes to their genetics through human interaction.

The fruits, grains, and roots of crop wild relatives are not as large as domesticated crops. Some might be bitter or have poor texture. But these hardy plants have a natural and useful diversity of traits that helped them live in some harsh conditions. These traits are useful to breeders in the fight to create a sustainable and secure food supply. 

“These wild and weedy species contain important genes that can be crossed into our domesticated crops,” says Marilyn Warburtin, Crop Science journal’s editor. ”Plant breeders depend on these crop wild relatives to provide new genes that do not occur in our crop plants, as a way of introducing natural and useful diversity for the creation of new crop cultivars.”

Information about crop wild relatives can be found on CSSA’s page, www.crops.org/crop-wild-relative. During the week, information will be added in the form of stories, blogs, an informational video, and even journal articles for those looking for deeper reading.

Readers will find general information on wild crop relatives and some specific examples based on sunflower, cranberries, and yams. There will be additional information about Frank Meyer, an early plant explorer. CSSA gives an award to a crop scientist each year in his name.

Follow CSSA’s social media posts during Crop Wild Relative Week at #CWR2018.

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