Crop Wild Relatives: U.S. Forest Service, others protect future plant and food supply from genetics

Crop Wild Relatives: U.S. Forest Service and partners protect future plant, food supply from genetics.

Conservation of original plant genetics is a huge goal of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and others around the globe to protect the future plant and food supply from any alterations.

USFS R-9 Botanist Jan Schultz explains the importance of Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) to future generations: Pure CWR like “wild raspberries, the wild strawberries, the wild blueberries, the wild corn — the precursor to corn was Teosinte” that doesn’t resemble the current corn and is a “little bitty thing that is now still in Central America.”

These pure plants are “back in the woods” far from human exposure.

Helping lead this effort is USFS R-9 covering 20 states that harbor about two-thirds of North American CWR.

Schultz explains why global preservation of CWR are vital to the future of humans. “We intend to build on this opportunity,” Schultz said. USFS R-9 harbors approx. 170 (about two-thirds) of these very important Priority 1A CWR species. It’s “essential that we act proactively to avoid species loss and genetic erosion of Crop Wild Relative,” Schultz said.

The CWR project involves conservation of species diversity within natural habitats/ecosystems – and focuses on keeping species in seed banks or living collections.

Plant samples are kept as whole plants, seed, pollen, vegetative propagules, tissue/cell cultures.
CWR examples: Sunflowers, raspberries, blackberries, quinoa, grapes, cherries, blueberries, cranberries and much more. This helps ensure original food for future generations.

EarthKeepers II (EK II) is an interfaith energy conservation and community garden initiative to restore native plants and protect the great lakes from toxins like airborne mercury across the Upper Peninsula of MI and northeast WI in cooperation with the EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, USFS, 10 faith traditions and Native American tribes.

EK II battles non-native invasive species that ruin ecosystems/hurt pollinators (bees/butterflies).
The EK II Community Gardens Technical Advisor, Schultz shares her expertise about pollinators, native plants, invasive species, cultivars and other issues related to a healthy ecosystem.

EK II educates the public about the detrimental effects of non-native plants, reduces airborne mercury thru energy conservation audits at 40 churches/temples and teaches congregations how to save energy in their homes.

EK II helps plant 30 interfaith community native plant gardens that help spread pollinators instead of invasive species.