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New & Forthcoming Titles | Handbook of Agrobiodiversity

Handbook of Agrobiodiversity

Handbook of Agrobiodiversity

Series Ed.: Singh, Anurudh Kumar

Agrobiodiversity refers to the variation found among plants, animals, fish, insects, microbes, avian etc., species used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture. In case of crop and cultivated plant species, it mainly refers to the genetic diversity of plant genetic resources (PGR), found in the form of landraces and varieties of crops species used for food, fodder, fiber, fuel, pharmaceuticals, etc., and breeds of livestock. As per the FAO definition, it may also include the diversity of non-harvested species that support production system (soil micro-organisms, predators, pollinators) of these species and those in the wider environment support that agroecosystems (agricultural, pastoral, forest and aquatic) of their cultivation/production.  However, the controlled genetic improvement of the cultivated species to facilitate continued breeding of cultigens with greater resilience to stresses and productivity is mainly dependent on overall genetic variation found in individuals belonging to the cultivated species and/or the ancestral species related to cultivated species. As these are the plant sources from where transfer of gene (genetic introgression) is possible through controlled breeding process of genetic improvement, incorporating desirable features, the accessibility to the information about these plant genetic resources is key to the success of the breeding efforts. Therefore, a comprehensive information is required about these resources to facilitate their conservation and long-term sustainable use in research and crop improvement. The present effort of bringing out a series of volumes dealing with different crop groups containing a comprehensive filtered information regarding these genetic resources and the availability of genetic diversity in each crop species of the group, that would facilitate their priority conservation in gene banks, and research and use in crop improvement

Since the time of Vavilov (1935), initiation of collection and conservation plant genetic resources (PGR), realizing the importance of genetic variability in crop improvement in early 20th century, there have been many national and international efforts promoting collection, characterization, evaluation, and conservation of PGR to facilitate search for new genes, research, and their use in crop improvement. Before promulgation of Agenda 21 in United Nations on Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 1992) the plant genetic resources were considered as the heritage of humankind, and supposed to be shared globally, freely without restriction. Vavilov initiative on collection and conservation of PGR got strengthened with the establishment Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and International Board of Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR) under it in 1974 under its auspices. The establishment commodity International Agricultural Research Centers (IARCs) followed, which had a Plant Genetic Resources Units functioning as centralized repositories for conservation of PGR. These initiatives/efforts resulted in assembly of a large number collections/accessions in most mandated crops, particularly food and forage crops through the participation of international community in collection missions and donation of national collections. However, the situation changed with enforcement of CBD (1993), which made the nations sovereign owners of PGR found within their political boundaries. This led to restriction in access to PGR, which are now governed either by the bilateral systems between the nations or the provisions of multilateral systems, such as International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA, 2001) and Nagoya Protocol (2011).

The development of multilateral systems also led to developing several supporting systems, including databases with information on global PGR for food and agriculture. For example, System-wide Information Network on Genetic Resources (SINGER) conserved by the IARCs and the Global Information System, based on central registry of cooperators (contracting parties) developed under auspices of ITPGRFA. However, they were mechanical systems without much of specific analysis or tailor-made filtration of data on PGR to support greater use. Consequently, the estimated use of PGR in crop improvement and research at the national and global level have almost remained static (around 1.5%) (Duvick, 1984; IRRI, 2012). For these reasons, it has been felt there is a need to bring out a comprehensive publication with additional accessory and supplementary information, analyses and specifically filtered information that can help promote greater research, search of new genes/alleles, revealing the opportunities available for exploitation of PGR in genetic engineering of crop cultivars to meet upcoming challenges of crop improvement and diversification. Also, it will help identification of gaps in relation to geographical areas covered and genetic diversity, for future search of genes/collections

Recognizing that plant genetic resources are basic building blocks in the crop improvement. Whereas the quality of information and access to PGR is key to scientific efforts of genetic engineering of crops species, developing better cultigens, mitigating various challenges posed by increasing population and climatic change. The proposed series of volumes dealing with compilation of information regarding the available genetic diversity among various cultivated species belonging to diverse crop groups and within a crop species of food and agriculture, from all possible perspectives of conservation and use (in genetic improvement of cultivated species). It would be able to enlist most genetic resources available globally, offering opportunities to be used in genetic engineering of crop species, and that would facilitate more predictive and productive genetic engineering programs to breed new cultivars. The content of these volumes on agro-biodiversity would be very useful for technology-poor developing countries, as this is not going to cover only major food crops, but the whole range of crop/economic species cultivated or used for support livelihood.