Social science and in situ conservation of crop genetic resources. – Botanica Lithuanica, Suppl. 2: 5–14

In situ conservation of crop genetic resources is a complementary strategy to ex situ conservation, requiring the active participation of farmers in maintaining local and traditional crop varieties. The purpose of on-farm conservation is not to preserve genetic diversity as such but to sustain crop evolution in selected habitats and farming systems, involving human and natural selection of diversity in cropping systems and the exchange of crop germplasm among populations. Research in several centers of crop origins and diversity demonstrates that a form of in situ conservation is widely practiced in cradle areas of crop domestication and diversity. Environmental heterogeneity, risk, and missing markets contribute to this practice. Social science is necessary in planning in situ conservation, to identify regions and types of farmers who should be involved and policies that will be effective. Illustrations from research in Peru, Mexico and Turkey are used.

Keywords: genetic resources, conservation, crops.