The first phase of the Project focused on the development of a global CWR inventory, an occurrence dataset, and gap analyses detailing where CWR species have not been collected before. This initial research step helped to identify and prioritize which CWR to collect and where, based on a global dataset of past collections, expert evaluations, and information on ease of use in breeding for each species according to the Harlan and de Wet (1971) genepool concept.[i] The CWR inventory covered approximately 193 crop genepools, while gap analyses were carried out for 81 genepools.
The expert evaluation was conducted to validate the conservation prioritization scores that were obtained through the gap analysis. Forty-four experts were selected based on their knowledge of the wild relatives of crops. They provided a score representing their view of the adequacy of existing CWR accessions in genebanks for each crop wild relative species, as well as any geographic and environmental gaps that they thought exist. An additional score was also included to represent the experts’ view of the usefulness of the taxon for plant breeding, and threats to the species in its natural habitat. Finally, a combined index was estimated through the application of a Multiple Factor Analysis (MFA) to summarize all the inputs received from the experts.
The Project team identified and prioritized the closest CWR taxa of the 29 focal crops for collection, and these taxa were used to identify countries for collecting. Partnerships are being put in place with national partners to collect these CWR. In addition, two pilot pre-breeding projects have focused on rice and sunflower, while partnerships have been developed with other institutions to initiate pre-breeding projects on a number of other crops. Pre-breeding projects have been launched for 19 out of the 29 crops.