Enhancing crop genetic diversity using crop wild relatives (CWR)
Constant climatic change and rapid evolution of diseases and pests have created challenges for plant breeders to find novel sources of resistance within cultivated gene pool. However wild (alien) relatives of crops still carries many promising resistance genes to biotic and abiotic stresses. Plant breeders around the world have successfully attempted to recover some of the beneficial genetic diversity lost (or never included) during the domestication and crop improvement process by crossing cultivated varieties with wild species to introgressed many valuable genes into crops like wheat and barley. This pre-breeding attempt to regain the genetic diversity of crops based on crop wild relatives (CWR) had been started at ICARDA 1994. Furthermore, The Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT) recently provided a grant to ICARDA within the Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) project to strengthen the research on use of genetic resources in pre-breeding of barley and grass pea. The pre-breeding activity in barley is focused on transferring genes of resistance to complex diseases and pests (scald, spot blotch and barley gall midge), improving tolerance to drought, heat and salinity, and enhancing the nutritional value through improving Iron and Zinc concentrations and amylases activity. Crosses were made between wild barely H. Vulgare X cultivated barley H. Vulgare subsp. H. spontaneum. The main objective of pre-breeding in Grasspea is transferring genes of low or no ?-ODAP from crossable species L. cicera and L. amphicarpus, L. tingitanus, L. aphaca, L. odoratus, L. sphaericus, L. nissolia, and L. aureus. Interspecific crosses were made between L. sativus x L.cicera followed by embryo rescue. Currently all the pre-breeding lines with targeted traits are under screening against the respective selection pressures using precision phenotyping..