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  PlanetArk 23 May 07
Wild Potatoes, Peanuts at Risk From Global Warming
Story by Alister Doyle

Yahoo News 23 May 07
Study: Climate change may imperil plants
By Ariel David, Associated Press Writer

Climate change could drive many wild relatives of plants such as the potato and the peanut into extinction, threatening a valuable source of genes necessary to help these food crops fight pests and drought, an international research group said Tuesday.

Over the next 50 years, more than 60 percent of 51 wild peanut species analyzed and 12 percent of 108 wild potato species analyzed could become extinct because of climate change, according to a study by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

Surviving species would be confined to much smaller areas, further eroding their capacity to survive, the study said. The study looked at the distribution of various species and predicted their ability to survive based on current and projected climate data for 2055.

Farmers and researchers often depend on wild plants to breed new varieties of crops that contain genes for traits such as pest resistance or drought tolerance, and that reliance is expected to increase as climate changes strain the ability of crops to continue to have the same yields as now, the group said in a statement.

In recent years, genes found in wild relatives have helped develop new types of domesticated potatoes that can fight devastating potato blight and new varieties of wheat more likely to survive droughts, the statement said.

"There is an urgent need to collect and store the seeds of wild relatives in crop diversity collections before they disappear," said Andy Jarvis, an agricultural geographer who led the study.

"At the moment, existing collections are conserving only a fraction of the diversity of wild species that are out there." Jarvis said further research is needed to identify which wild relatives are more vulnerable to climate change.

Plant species like the peanut are more endangered by global warming as they grow largely in flat areas and would have to migrate over huge distances to find cooler climates, while plants that live on mountain slopes may only need to gain a little altitude to find more favorable weather, he said.

The study, focusing on plants in Africa and South America, was put out by a Rome-based biodiversity group, one of 15 agricultural research centers worldwide supported by the Consultative Group.

The international organization is an informal association of 64 countries, public and private groups co-sponsored by the World Bank and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. It works toward sustainable food security and researches ways to cut poverty in developing countries through scientific research.

On the Net: Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research: http://www.cgiar.org

PlanetArk 23 May 07
Wild Potatoes, Peanuts at Risk From Global Warming
Story by Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO - Global warming may drive many wild varieties of plants such as potatoes and peanuts to extinction by mid-century, wiping out traits that might help modern crops resist pests or disease, scientists said on Tuesday.

A study by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), grouping experts around the world, urged governments to do more to preserve the wild relatives of crops in nature and in seed banks.

"A number of wild species will be highly threatened by climate change -- they are losing areas suitable as their habitat," said Annie Lane, one of three authors of the study issued on May 22, the UN's International Biodiversity Day.

Up to 61 percent of 51 species of wild peanut and 12 percent of 108 wild potato species studied could go extinct in the next 50 years because of a warming widely blamed on greenhouse gases released by human use of fossil fuels, the study said.

The third plant examined, the vigna or cowpea which is an important food crop in Africa, was the most resilient in the climate models with just two of 48 wild strains at risk of extinction.

CGIAR backs 15 farm research groups worldwide. Lane, an Australian, told Reuters the findings suggested that many wild relatives of other crops -- including wheat, rice or barley could be at risk.

Hardy plants that thrive in a broad range of climates could benefit. Peanuts, which originated in South America, are at risk because they thrive in flat regions, where any climate change quickly affects a big area. The peanuts also grow underground, near the parent plant, limiting their ability to move.


Potatoes, found in the Andes mountains, could more easily extend their range upwards to find cooler temperatures. A strain of wild potato with genes resistant to blight, infamous for causing the 1840s famine in Ireland which killed about a million people, was among species at risk of extinction, Lane said.

UN reports this year have forecast more floods, drought, heatwaves and rising seas due to warming. Scientists worry, for instance, that a peanut with a trait that resists insect attacks might be wiped out by a shift to too heavy rains.

Wild relatives of crops have been crossed in recent years to improve drought resistance in wheat, heat tolerance in rice or to raise nutritional values, such as calcium content in potatoes or protein content in durum wheat.

One estimate made in the early 1980s was that wild relatives of crops were worth US$340 million in the United States alone in raising yields and quality.

"There is an urgent need to identify and effectively conserve crop wild relatives that are at risk of climate change," the study said. Lane said it was best to find outdoor areas to safeguard crops with seed banks as a backup.

Related articles on Global issues: biodiversity loss
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