Facts and Figures of Plant Genetic Resources
Three Plant Species Feed the World
Up to now, approximately 250,000 plant species are described on earth, thereof 30,000 are edible plant species of which 7,000 species are used or cultivated. Despite this huge diversity of species only 150 plant species play a significant part in human nutrition world-wide. Presently, 95 % of the world's calorie needs are covered by 30 plant species. However, the yield of just three species - wheat, rice and maize - provide almost 50 % of the world's calorie needs.
Situation in Germany
Within Central Europe and Germany only a fraction of the possible crops are being cultivated and used. Due to a reinforced specialisation and intensification in the post Second World War period, the number of cultivated species declined considerably. In German agriculture only some 25 cash crops and 35 forage crops are cultivated. Presently, there are some 70 vegetable crops, 30 fruit crops and 70 medicinal and aromatic plant species cultivated in German horticultural production.
Approximately, 48 % of the German land area is used by agriculture with over 60 % of the arable land dominated by 5 crops. The agricultural production is dominated by modern high-yielding varieties. Landraces are almost non-existent with the exception of some fruits, vegetables and cereal varieties.
There are more than 2,600 national and many thousands of European registered varieties and therefore a huge diversity is available for agriculture. But, in practice within the main crops like winter wheat (cultivated on 3.1 million hectare) often only few varieties dominate in cultivation. However, varieties are subject to frequent replacements due to constant improvements in breeding and the release of new promising varieties.