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.

Thematic areas

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

Crop wild relatives

Find out more

Payments for agrobiodiversity conservation services

Find out more

Collecting the husk from threshed finger millet in Dolakha, Nepal. Credit: Bioversity International/G.Meldrum

Economics of agrobiodiversity conservation

Find out more

Managing crop diversity on farm

Find out more

Community seedbanks

Find out more

Integrating wild & agrobiodiversity conservation

Find out more

Research highlights

The race to save threatened crops in Nepal

Bioversity International & partners worked with farmers in remote mountainous regions to rescue, conserve and repatriate 284 rare and endangered traditional crops after two devastating earthquakes hit Nepal in 2015.

Find out how

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

Pragmatists, marketers, exhibitionists & novelty seekers

When it comes to choosing how much crop diversity to plant, it seems the type of farmer matters as much as the type of crop. This study sets out to understand what drives farmers' choices across their entire crop portfolio and also if, and how, this varies between different farmers.


Find out more

Related news

Scientists unlock secrets of Ethiopia's superfood in race to save it from warming climate

Ethiopia's native staple food grain teff is at risk, with 80% of production to be hit by higher temperatures soon if not protected. For the first...

Read more

Nepali community seedbanks join forces to conserve agrobiodiversity

On the International Day for Biological Diversity, we celebrate community seedbanks that maintain and harness Nepal’s rich agricultural biodiversity...

Read more

Biodiversity: a building block for a healthier future

On the International Day for Biological Diversity, we discuss how biodiversity can be leveraged to embed resilience in our food systems and build a...

Read more

Caring for the seeds of the future during the quarantine

Making sure that the collections of beans, cassava, bananas, and forages remain alive, even during the quarantine, is an essential job of the Alliance...

Read more

Growing for the future: a new book on school gardens

75 contributors pooled their experiences for the newly released book “Agrobiodiversity, school gardens and healthy diets”. Case studies from around...

Read more