Rare crops crucial to protect Europe's food supply, boost health

phys.org | 4/23/2018 | Staff
srqlolo (Posted by) Level 3
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Rye bread or porridge oats may not be everyone's first choice of breakfast, but scientists say Europeans need to broaden their taste in cereals both to boost their own health and to protect the future of Europe's farming.

Wheat makes up nearly half of all cereals grown in the EU. The rest is mainly maize and barley.

Europe - Strategy - High-yielding - Plants - Harvests

Although Europe's strategy to focus on a few high-yielding plants has produced bumper harvests, the lack of genetic variation means the crops are more susceptible to disease, pests and drought, scientists say.

"If we rely on only one crop we are very vulnerable," said Dr. Dagmar Janovská, curator of minor crops at the Prague-based Crop Research Institute in the Czech Republic.

History - Lot - Crops - Ireland - Potato

"We should learn from our history and grow a lot of different crops," she added, referring to Ireland's potato famine in the mid-19th century. At the time, most Irish farmers grew just potatoes. When disease wiped out the country's crop, it led to widespread starvation.

Dr. Janovská coordinated a Europe-wide project to help boost the breeding and popularity of minor cereals rye, oat, spelt, emmer and einkorn.

Researchers - HealthyMinorCereals - Project - Genotypes—sets - Genes

Researchers on the HealthyMinorCereals project evaluated more than 1,700 genotypes—sets of genes in a plant's DNA—for specific traits including yield, nutritional quality and resistance to disease. They carried out field experiments in Estonia, the UK, the Czech Republic and Crete.

"We would like to improve breeding programmes in Europe (of minor cereals)," Dr. Janovská said.

Project - Results - Breeders - Varieties - Wheat—which

The project's results should help breeders develop varieties of cereal—including common wheat—which are better suited to the changing climate and need fewer pesticides. For example, the researchers found one genotype of spelt that is resistant to a fungus called fusarium head blight.

Globally, more than 6,000 plant species have been cultivated for food, but just nine of these account for 66% of the world's crop production, according to the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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