Spiky carrot seed could feed the nation after crops are lost to climate change, Kew Gardens reveals
Spiky carrot seeds could be the key to feeding the nation if we lose crops due to climate change, Kew Gardens has revealed as it celebrates 20 years of its seed bank.
The seed bank, opened in November 2000, and located at Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden in Sussex, acts as an ‘insurance policy’ for rare, threatened and useful plants, so that they can be protected for generations to come.
Scientists at the facility have been collecting the wild relatives of popular vegetables in case the current strains we use die out as the Earth warms and becomes less hospitable.
It is hoped that from these, new and more resilient crops can be developed.
One such seed is the wild carrot, which was domesticated by humans into the crop we eat today. It is inedible as it is just a large, bitter root, but is a hardy vegetable which could be bred from to create a new, edible crop.
Dr Chris Cockel, Project lead for the Crop Wild Relatives Project told The Telegraph that carrot pests could decimate the crop if hot, humid conditions cause them to thrive.
He explained: "Variable conditions, including water stress from too much or not enough water has been seen to result in more root splitting. Carrots are also prone to several diseases, for which crop wild relatives of the same genus have been used to provide resistance to carrot fly, for example. As such, crop wild relatives of the domesticated carrot can be seen to provide options for resilience in the face of changes in temperature and precipitation, as well as resistance to pests and diseases."
Dr Cockel added that wild carrots have not been "pampered" by humans, explaining this means "they have built up resistance to fluctuating conditions, with these genetic traits being important for crop breeders, as long as the material is available."
Kew’s seed bank represents the largest wild seed conservation project in the world, with 2.4 billion seeds from 39,681 species, sourced from 190 countries and territories. When counting the collections held across the global partnership, the MSB and its partners have helped protect 46,664 species – 16 per cent of the world’s seed-bearing plants.