Why does crop diversity matter?
More than 60% of the world’s food supply depends on just three crops – wheat, maize, and rice – all of which are vulnerable to biodiversity loss, climate crisis, and conflict.
Amid deeply challenging times at local, national, and global levels, our reliance on such a narrow food supply is exposing the critical need to diversify our food system – for ourselves and for future generations – and identify actionable solutions to address these challenges.
Climate change is making it harder for farmers to grow enough food to feed not only their families but also the rest of the world. Without adaptation, our global food system will be unable to cope.
Crop diversity – the variety of plants used in agriculture – is a prerequisite for future food and nutrition security. Only by safeguarding crop diversity in perpetuity, and making it available for use by researchers, plant breeders, and farmers, can we adapt agriculture to the climate crisis, improve livelihoods and feed everyone adequately.
New options for farmers
Potatoes are grown all around the world, and almost everywhere they are grown they are threatened by late blight, a wind-borne disease that can destroy a field of plants in a matter of weeks. Though this disease is widely controlled with agrochemicals, millions of farmers cannot afford or apply them as often as needed, resulting in about USD 14 billion in crop losses annually, primarily in developing countries.
Farmers in Peru have a new option for dealing with this devastating disease. A new potato variety called CIP-Matilde, developed by the International Potato Center (CIP) with support from the Crop Trust is the product of a breeding effort that crossed wild potatoes with cultivated ones to produce commercially viable potatoes that can withstand late blight.
Grasspea is very nutritious and can withstand environmental extremes like droughts and floods that cause other crops to fail. Rich in iron, zinc, and protein, this annual legume is used as livestock feed, a grain crop for humans, and fertilizer for farming systems. It is a low-cost crop that can be simply thrown into a field and will still grow well – it does not require any fertilizer or much irrigation.