3 years ago

The Partnership no. 13

  • Text
  • Enza
  • Tomatoes
  • Partnership
  • Zaden
  • Tomato
  • Biodiversity
  • Melon
  • Varieties
  • Flavour
  • Consumer

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26 | The Partnership

The dynamic world of biodiversity Science Biodiversity is a trend worldwide. In all layers of society, there is a need to protect our fragile planet and its natural resources. The United Nations has even nominated the decade 2011-2020 the ‘decade of biodiversity’. So what’s going on in this dynamic world of diversity? Biodiversity embraces the total diversity in nature, so microorganisms, plants and animals. “In plant breeding, biodiversity stands for the wild relatives of our food crops as well as for landraces that have adapted perfectly to their surrounding natural habitat over centuries,” explains Gene Bank Manager Mariann Börner. “But it also stands for the new diversity created by a breeder with his crossings and selections during the breeding process. Biodiversity is the basis and the result of plant breeding. A breeder is only as good as the genetic diversity of the plants he breeds. Biodiversity is thus the basis of our food." Biodiversity and future challenges For a breeder, the natural occurring diversity is the most important source of his work. Here valuable new traits can be found and integrated in a new variety. Traits like resistance to new diseases or traits that help adaptation to new production systems. Besides resistance, productivity, colour, shape and taste, other traits that may also be important in the near future are present. Conserving our plant biodiversity can help us tackle future global challenges like natural and societal changes. For example, different natural habitats, new production systems, new evolving plant diseases, climate change and food security. “With an ever-changing environment, we may find the answers amongst the wild relatives. But biodiversity also enables us to adapt our products to the changing demands of the end-consumer. Whenever a breeder wants to look for new traits, he starts his journey through his own genetic diversity.” Nikolai Vavilov The Russian researcher Nikolai Vavilov is at the very heart of the gene banks. In the 1920’s of the last century, he worked for the Institute of Applied Botany and New Crops in Petrograd – today Saint Petersburg. The main goal of this institute was to collect plant diversity worldwide and to study this for the benefit of plant breeding. Vavilov was the first researcher to travel to no less than five continents in search of crop seeds, starting in the Southern regions of Russia. In his life, he organised or took part in over more than a hundred expeditions. Moreover, he established over four hundred research institutes in a short time. Vavilov conserved the seeds he collected in the institute he worked for. These plant collections formed the basis for new theories on how cultivated varieties develop. This laid the foundation of present-day plant breeding and of one of the largest gene banks in the world. The Partnership | 27

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