Theres good and bad news when it comes to our crop diversity here in North America.
We know that biodiversity is Mother Nature’s way of protecting us from a global food shortage, because if there are many types of crops, and some are affected by a drought, insect infestation, or disease, chances are some varieties will survive. But we also know that monoculture (growing only a handful of crop types, chosen for their yield) is still the prevailing agricultural approach today.
Now new research is helping uncover some news about crop diversity here in North America—there’s some good and some bad.
The good news might surprise you: the researchers uncovered almost 4,600 wild relatives of typical crop plants in the US. These include cousins of our much-loved strawberries, sweet potato, and sunflowers. Together these wild varieties might be more resistant to disease and drought.
Here’s what might not surprise you: many of these wild varieties are threatened by climate change, pollution, and loss of habitat. Some are listed as endangered. Researchers are now setting their sights on the next step—preserving and managing these important, but threatened, plants.
Check out our recent article “Preserving Biodiversity” for tips on how you can take action. I’m a big fan of buying local varieties of veggies from my local farmers’ markets, and choosing heirloom varieties for my container garden.