UK: Scientists help reboot 50 years of plant advice to solve one of nature's biggest challenges

Scientists from the University of Portsmouth and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, have come up with a formula to help plant breeders and farmers around the world grow crops in a more sustainable way.

The new checklist, which has just been published in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, will guide plant breeders to better understand the species they are trying to improve. It will also help them find ways to increase growth and yield of crops using the wild plant species from which they were once domesticated.

There is an urgent and critical need for changes in farming techniques due to the growing challenges of global warming faced by crop producers. Plants that were selected and bred to suit certain climates, now need more help from the humans who are damaging the environment in which they grow.

Study author Dr Rocio Perez-Barrales, Senior Lecturer in the School of Biological Science at the University of Portsmouth said: "When the human race first domesticated crops, the climate and environment were completely different - what we are seeing in the last 50 years is a rapid change in climate. The world is now frequently facing catastrophic climate events like droughts and in the UK we are now seeing some crops being harvested up to a month earlier than they used to be.

"When plants were domesticated, they were artificially selected for a specific desirable trait. Artificial selection and farming have led to quality improvements in foods such as meat, milk, and fruit. However, over hundreds of years, there has been a negative impact to this process - a reduction in plant genetic diversity.

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