Mountain Agrobiodiversity

The safeguarding of agrobiodiversity is an extension of the concept of biodiversity conservation that refers specifically to the varieties/races of plant, animal, and microbe species of agricultural interest, as well as crop wild relatives. Many of the traditional genetic resources (both animals and plants) have been lost over time, replaced with other more productive varieties/races or due to changing consumer tastes. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that about 75% of global agrobiodiversity has been lost over the last century and that three quarters of food worldwide is produced by only 12 plant species and five animal species. The loss of agrobiodiversity represents a serious problem: one of the latest communications of the European Commission (EU COM 380, 20.5.2020) states that by 2030, it is necessary to invert the trend of genetic erosion in agriculture by, for example, the use of traditional breeds and cultivars. Traditional plant varieties and animal breeds are resources adapted to low input and organic agriculture and unique genetic reserves for genetic improvement programs to face climatic and social changes, but they are also under serious threat of disappearing. In mountain environments isolation has been in this case an advantage, as these areas are very often the crucible were the most of traditional animal breeds and plant landraces could be preserved, characterizing the agri-food and historical-cultural aspects of these areas. Today, the re-evaluation of traditional agrobiodiversity is testified by the creation of small chains of unique traditional and innovative products and by the attention of the scientific community as many landraces today are little-known or totally unknown (as regards the various genetic, agronomic, phytochemical, ecological, historical aspects, etc.). In times of climate change and disruptive social and economic change, the genetic patrimony of traditional crop and breeds could provide solutions for the resilience of mountain social-ecological systems and in general adaptive and innovative capacities for crops and farming as well as more sustainable solutions for agriculture. This Working Group aims to exchange information at a European level to list, describe, monitor, protect and promote traditional varieties and breeds and collect best practices to implement novel marketing niches based on the underpinning of local agrobiodiversity heritage.

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