There is a pressing need for agriculture to adapt to climate change, and collecting seeds of the wild relatives of crop plants for their conservation and use in breeding can help us achieve this. However, it can be very tricky to find these seeds at the right stage of maturity, even when you know what to look for.
If you had to collect seeds from a particular species within a particular country, how would you know exactly where to go? How would you distinguish the species you were targeting from other, closely related species? How would you know when the seeds would be ripe?
Kew has produced twenty country-specific guides for national collecting partners of the Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change project to help make seed-collecting fieldwork as productive as possible. Guides were also produced for five additional countries not part of the project (Indonesia, Mozambique, Myanmar, South Sudan and Sri Lanka).
These guides (a kind of bespoke field guide to crop wild relatives) have all the information seed collectors need, including key features that distinguish the target species from closely related species in the region, plant phenology, habitat and altitude range, and suggested seed collecting methods to ensure high-quality collections. The guides also include predicted distribution maps and images of live plants and dried herbarium specimens.
Unfortunately, some of the images included in the guides are currently restricted by copyright; so the guides are only available from the Kew Millennium Seed Bank Library Archive. But you can find reference information about all of the guides in the Kew Library, Art, Archives, Catalogues & Contacts database. To request access to a guide, please contact the Seed Bank Librarian at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the information included in these guides is also available on this website. For example, you can find the potential distribution maps alongside maps of actual occurrence data and collecting priorities for various crop wild relatives in the CWR Atlas. The results of partner collecting activities are detailed in our Project Publications, many of which have been published open access (free for anyone to read). For data related to samples of seeds collected through the project and stored in genebanks, check out the Genesys database. Finally, explore the updated Germinate database for pre-breeding data on 13 of the priority crops covered by the Crop Wild Relatives project.