In situ conservation of plant genetic resources
Traditionally, in situ protection and conservation is a priority activity of nature conservation. The key features of in situ management in nature conservation are sustainability-focused agricultural and silvicultural land uses and nature and landscape conservation measures. These include species conservation and area-specific biotope conservation.
Up to now, the conservation of genetic resources for food and agriculture plays no major role in management, maintenance and conservation measures of nature conservation. Little knowledge is available regarding the extent to which nature conservation measures contribute to the conservation of genetic resources. However, in situ conservation seems to be the most feasible measure for protecting both wild plant species with a potential use for food, feed or renewable resources as well as crop wild relatives (CWR).
On farm management is a specific type of in situ conservation, where conservation and improvement are an integral part of the agricultural production process itself. This concept originates from developing countries, where its importance with regard to the conservation and improvement of landraces is obvious. In countries like Germany with a highly specialised agriculture where traditional landraces have largely disappeared from farmers fields and gardens and seeds of high yielding modern cultivars are easily accessible the importance of on farm management is less obvious.
The most important objectives of on farm management in Germany are (1) increasing the diversity of cultivated plants by supporting particularly neglected and under-utilised crops, (2) increasing the genetic diversity within selected crops by cultivation of genetically divergent varieties or landraces, (3) promoting cultural diversity and maintaining traditional knowledge, (4) improving plant genetic resources in particular of landraces by utilisation of evolutionary processes, (5) safeguarding the availability of high quality agricultural products for human nutrition and (6) diversification of agricultural production through development of new products for specific market niches.
Quite a number of private initiatives and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Germany are aiming at conserving and improving the diversity of landraces (e.g. conservation varieties and amateur varieties), however, most of these activities are not well coordinated yet.