Presentation Title

Developing Methods to Assess Vermont Crop Rarity

Abstract

Preserving genetic diversity allows for the continued fitness and survival of a species. Within crop production, genetic diversity provides a robust food system resilient to pressures of the changing climate. The lack of commercial seed producers for particular varieties and seed savers along with the limitations of maintaining genetically diverse varieties that are less popular contribute to the decline of regional crop genetic diversity. To create a system in which genetic diversity is adequately maintained, the current varietal diversity of agricultural crops must be assessed. An understanding of the varietal diversity of crops requires methodology to identify endangered crop varieties. Methodology was produced to assess conservation status/rarity of crop varieties utilizing adapted NatureServe and IUCN protocols. The questions asked are (1) what are the rare varieties grown in a given region and (2) does their varietal diversity correlate to genetic diversity? Factors considered included range extent, population size, commercial availability, vulnerability, and ex situ preservation. I found that there is insufficient data to produce comprehensive varietal rankings based on conservation status, but many regional (in this case, Vermont) varieties are vulnerable to extirpation and require active preservation measures. This emphasizes the importance of maintaining rare varieties, and acts as a template for varietal rankings and crop genetic diversity assessments to continue in the future and in other regions.

Primary Faculty Mentor Name

Eric Bishop von Wettberg

Status

Undergraduate

Student College

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Program/Major

Biological Science

Primary Research Category

Biological Sciences

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Developing Methods to Assess Vermont Crop Rarity

Preserving genetic diversity allows for the continued fitness and survival of a species. Within crop production, genetic diversity provides a robust food system resilient to pressures of the changing climate. The lack of commercial seed producers for particular varieties and seed savers along with the limitations of maintaining genetically diverse varieties that are less popular contribute to the decline of regional crop genetic diversity. To create a system in which genetic diversity is adequately maintained, the current varietal diversity of agricultural crops must be assessed. An understanding of the varietal diversity of crops requires methodology to identify endangered crop varieties. Methodology was produced to assess conservation status/rarity of crop varieties utilizing adapted NatureServe and IUCN protocols. The questions asked are (1) what are the rare varieties grown in a given region and (2) does their varietal diversity correlate to genetic diversity? Factors considered included range extent, population size, commercial availability, vulnerability, and ex situ preservation. I found that there is insufficient data to produce comprehensive varietal rankings based on conservation status, but many regional (in this case, Vermont) varieties are vulnerable to extirpation and require active preservation measures. This emphasizes the importance of maintaining rare varieties, and acts as a template for varietal rankings and crop genetic diversity assessments to continue in the future and in other regions.