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Vegetable Landrace Inventory of England and Wales - IF0164

An initial scoping exercise for UK crop landraces (traditional varieties of crops largely developed by farmers over extended time rather than formally bred by plant breeders) indicated that there remains a significant wealth of landrace diversity in the UK, but that it is often highly geographically localized and critically threatened with extinction. Landraces are important for several reasons: a) they are adapted to local environmental conditions and can therefore be cultivated using low input farming practices which have less negative impact on the environment and are more sustainable than high input, intensive farming systems, b) they are of high cultural and historic value and cater for the nutritional needs and tastes of local consumers, c) they often have high niche market value and can therefore be important for farmers' incomes and financial security, d) they may offer breeders the necessary, novel genetic diversity that can improve pest and disease resistance and increase tolerance of adverse or marginal cultivation environments (particularly important in the light of climate change), increase the marketable qualities of crops, and ultimately enhance crop productivity. However, landraces are currently not effectively duplicated in UK crop gene bank collections and are threatened by the ageing demography of those who maintain them in situ, either ‘on farm’ or in home gardens. Unless this problem is addressed now, UK landrace diversity will suffer serious taxonomic and genetic erosion in the next 20 years and many varieties are likely to be lost completely. The Defra coordinated UK Plant Genetic Resources Group has acknowledged the importance of landraces and the likely extinction risk and agreed in 2005 that a systematic survey of UK landraces, particularly for vegetable and fruit diversity, was an urgent priority. Subsequent studies in the Scottish islands have confirmed the vulnerability of landraces and further stressed the serious threat facing landrace diversity nationally and it seems likely that a similar situation exists in England and Wales. As a first step towards achieving the systematic conservation and use of UK vegetable and fruit landraces, an inventory of English and Welsh vegetable landrace diversity is proposed. The overall aim of the project is to systematically inventory English and Welsh vegetable landrace diversity to provide the baseline information needed to: a) ensure that this diversity is adequately conserved and b) promote its utilisation, both directly by local consumers of the varieties and indirectly by plant breeders to meet changing environmental and market demands, thus promoting UK food security.
1. Expert discussion of landrace diversity with members of UK PGR Group
2. Review of official government documentation of landrace diversity
3. Review of NGO knowledge and holdings of landrace diversity
4. Review of commercial knowledge and holdings of landrace diversity
5. Review of ex situ genebank holdings of landraces
6. Review of scientific and popular literature of landrace diversity
7. Discussion of landrace diversity with landrace maintainers
8. Design and enter data into landrace database
9. Data analysis and conservation recommendations
10. Incorporate landrace database into web-enabled database
11. Final report of English and Welsh landrace diversity
Project Documents
• Final Report : Vegetable landrace inventory of England and Wales   (873k)
• Final Report - Annex : Vegetable landrace inventory annex 2   (3353k)
• Final Report - Annex : Vegetable landrace inventory annex 3   (714k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2008

To: 2009

Cost: £55,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Warwick - HRI, University - Birmingham
Allocated - WHRI              
Genetic Conservation              
Integrated Farming Systems              
Plant Genetic Resources              
Sustainable Farming and Food Science              
Sustainable Farming Systems