Skip to main content


The diversity of local crops and their wild relatives plays a significant role in the livelihoods of many smallholder farming communities in developing countries.

Smallholder farmers can use diversity of crops as a resource to adapt their crops to environmental changes. In their fields and in the nearby wild areas, there is a huge diversity of plants, which continue to evolve and adapt to changing conditions and so can be used to provide useful genes for new crops.

Genebanks – where seeds and other planting materials are safely managed and stored – are also a crucial back-up system. However, the sheer numbers of species and varieties in the world means that genebanks alone cannot safeguard crop diversity for future use. Protecting the world’s agricultural biodiversity resources in the places where it continues to evolve is both an outcome in itself and a crucial resource for the future.

Unfortunately, the diversity of local crops and their wild relatives is being lost at an alarming pace as a result of changing markets, farming practices, environmental degradation and many other factors. Often they are being lost even before they are completely documented, and certainly before they have been studied by formal research, leading to their name ‘neglected and underutilized species’.

Understanding the status of the diversity of local crops and their wild relatives on farms and in wild areas and how they are used and managed by men and women is a priority research task for Bioversity International, in collaboration with other CGIAR and national partners, in order for these resources to be effectively and efficiently valued, used  and conserved. Our research will help ensure that these key resources remain available for smallholder farmers and breeders both now and in the future.

Research highlights

On the farm and on the wild side

Conserving plant genetic resources in farmers' fields so that they can evolve with changing conditions is often said to be a good thing, yet without very much evidence. A new study examines the case for in situ conservation, marshalls the evidence and raises important questions.


Find out more

Beating the heat with community seedbanks

For most countries, the role of community seedbanks to help farmers adapt to climate change is simply not yet on the radar. A new study highlights why this invaluable resource for safeguarding and sharing locally-adapted seed diversity deserves a place at the policy table.


Find out more

Wild amaranth growing in Ethiopia. Credit: Bioversity International/C. Zanzanaini

Crop wild relatives

Find out more

Payments for agrobiodiversity conservation services

Find out more

Managing crop diversity on farm

Find out more

Community seedbanks

Find out more

Related news

Call for help to map conservation priorities for Asian tree species

Unsustainable extraction, changing land uses and climate threaten thousands of socio-economically valuable tree species across Asia. A new regional...

Read more

Rice varieties from the plains of the Terai regions in Nepal. Credit: Bioversity International/B. Sthapit

Testing farmers evolutionary plant breeding strategies for coping with climate change

Bioversity International and IFAD are pleased to announce an IFAD grant of $3.5 million and national co-funding of $2.1 million, on the use of genetic...

Read more

Uniting efforts to enhance the use of neglected Mayan superfood chaya

Rose Robitaille, Research Fellow, Healthy diets from sustainable food systems, discusses the potential of chaya, an underutilized Mayan spinach, and...

Read more

Inyectando diversidad para reforzar la inmunidad al cambio climático y a la inseguridad alimentaria

El científico senior de Bioversity International Stefano Padulosi y el economista principal Adam Drucker informan sobre el éxito de la primera edición...

Read more

Injecting diversity to bolster immunity to climate change and food insecurity

Bioversity International’s Senior Scientist Stefano Padulosi and Principal Economist Adam Drucker report on the success of the first edition of...

Read more