The researchers identified 871 of these native species that are known as crop wild relatives (CWR). They are called this because of their genetic potential to adapt and help maintain 28 important global crops (such as rice, wheat, soybeans, and many others).
Some are used to help crop plants improve resistance to cold or provide resistance to toxins. Others have improved drought resistance or improved nutritional qualities such as protein content.
In the meantime, with a database of all the species completed, efforts are under way to start preserving the species in gene banks in order to retain their valuable traits. The world is only just beginning to realize the importance of CWRs and other wild plants in the fight to mitigate the effects of global warming and ensure agricultural economic stability.
Researcher Shelagh Kell said that the politics involved are incredibly complex and that, “urgent attention needs to be paid to China’s CWR to ensure that they are adequately conserved, so that this diversity is available for use in crop improvement programs before it is lost forever.”