Strengthening the scientific basis of in situ conservation of agricultural biodiversity on-farm. – Botanica Lithuanica, Suppl. 2: 79–90

In situ conservation on-farm has been defined in numerous ways depending on the different objectives of the interested parties involved. Key to each of these objectives is identifying who is the targeted beneficiary of the socio-economic, ecological and genetic benefits from in situ conservation on-farm. In common to all interested parties is a concern about (1) why and who diversity is being maintaining and (2) how to sustain and possible enhance its maintenance over time. Crop genetic resources are affected by both natural and human selection pressures from the agroecosystem that surrounds them. Environmental, biological, cultural and socio-economic factors influence a farmer’s decision of whether to select or maintain a particular crop cultivar at any given time. Farmers, in turn, make decisions in the process of planting, managing, harvesting and processing their crops that affect the genetic diversity of the crop populations. The challenge of understanding the mechanisms of in situ conservation on-farm resulted in the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), together with national partners in nine countries and technical experts, formulating a global project to “strengthen the scientific basis of in situ conservation of agricultural biodiversity”. The participants are focused in six areas: (1) socio-economic, cultural and biological influences on farmer decision-making, (2) population structure of local cultivars, including population size, isolation, and geneflow between and within cultivars and crop wild relatives, (3) farmer selection of agromorphological characters, (4) environmental selection by agroecosystems, including natural factors (e.g. soil, precipitation, temperature, disease, etc.) and managed factors (fertilized application, irrigation, weeding, harvesting practices, etc.), (5) seed/germplasm supply and storage systems, and (6) enhancing the benefits of local crop resources. In situ conservation on-farm is a platform where the objectives of conservationists, environmentalists, and economic and social development workers all have a place. It is a scheme that offers the rare opportunity for both farmers and society to achieve socio-economic, ecological and genetic benefits within the same strategy.

Keywords: in situ, on-farm, conservation, genetic diversity, socio-economic benefits, ecosystem services, genetic value.