Cyprus Mail

Wild Cyprus plant among those in UK research project

The wild lentil plant

A wild lentil plant from Cyprus, as well as wild relatives of the grass pea and fava bean are among more than 70,000 seeds which have recently been sent from the UK’s Millennium Seed Bank to Lebanon.
The Millennium Seed Bank at Kew is the world’s largest wild plant seed bank but, according to research officer Angelos Kyratzis at Cyprus’ agricultural institute though there are advanced storage facilities in the UK they don’t include the possibility to carry out research.
“This is the result of a project during which we collected seeds in 2014 and 2015 and sent them to the Millennium Seed Bank,” Kyratzis explained on Thursday. “Now they are sending seeds to Icarda (the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas) to do research with genotypes adapted to climate change.”
Icarda used to be based in Syria, but because of the civil war the research centre was moved to Morocco and Lebanon.
“They have the facilities to do the research, and of course if you want to do research on climate change in the Mediterranean area you can’t do it in London,” the researcher said.
As part of the Crop Wild Relatives project, seeds from the resilient, wild cousins of modern food crops are being collected and stored by various countries.
The current consignment contains more than 50 wild relatives of cultivated crops, such as wheat, barley and lentils.
The seeds exported to Lebanon were collected in Italy, Georgia, Cyprus, Portugal, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The aim is to breed new crop varieties capable of withstanding threats such as climate change, drought, pests and diseases.
”The real importance of these crop wild relatives is that in order to survive in the world they’ve had to adapt to hostile environmental changes,” Oriole Wagstaff of the Crop Wild Relatives project at Kew’s botanic garden at Wakehurst in Sussex said.
”With increasing pressures such as pests, diseases and climate change, we need to turn to these wild relatives, which have a much greater genetic diversity.”

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