The Project includes four main components: the prioritization of crop wild relatives based on gap analysis, the collection of CWR in the field, CWR conservation in genebanks, and the use of CWR in pre-breeding efforts to prepare them for use by crop breeders.
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.
CWR have to be collected from the wild before they can be used in breeding. In this Project, national partners organize collecting of priority CWR in their country. Prior to collecting, permits have to be obtained, and localities of populations identified. Once found, collectors may need to visit the site several times to ensure that enough plants are flowering and the seeds are of high enough quality for collection.
Once crop wild relatives have been collected, conserving them properly in ex situ collections is essential to ensure their continued availability for breeding and to safeguard their genetic diversity from extinction in the field. All crop wild relatives collected as part of this project will be conserved in the national collections of the country of origin, the Millennium Seed Bank, the appropriate CGIAR international collection, and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
The first step is using CWR in crop improvement is pre-breeding, an essential component of the Project consisting of a wide range of activities that aim to isolate desired genetic traits (e.g., disease resistance) and introduce them into breeding lines that are more readily crossable with modern, elite varieties.
Collections of crop wild relatives and pre-breeding material need to be used actively. In order for this material to be used, data about the material needs to be of as high quality, and as easily accessible, as the seeds and breeding material themselves. Therefore, the Crop Wild Relatives Project is working to build information systems to help manage and search crop collections globally.