Conservation & use of crop wild relatives in Arizona.
This paper discusses the recognition, protection and utilization of the wild relatives of domesticated crops that naturally occur in Arizona (USA), which among the states has the richest flora of these culturally and economically valuable wild plants, with species from over 50 genera. Many of the species found in the Grand Canyon State occur in national forests, national parks and monuments, and on Indian reservations. These crop wild relatives (CWRs) are the cousins of important plants cultivated for food, fibre, forage, beverage, and industrial uses around the planet. Conserving and studying these CWRs in their natural habitats can provide plant breeders and evolutionary biologists unique insights into these plants' interactions with pollinators, seed dispersers, predators, and pests and diseases. Such insights may prove to be useful not only in crop improvement but also in devising novel strategies for integrated pest and disease management. Agencies, organizations, and individuals from different sectors are looking to combine forces to more effectively celebrate, conserve, and make use of CWRs. Identified five priority areas for action are enumerated: (1) Understand and document native CWRs, assess threats to their natural habitats, and determine gaps in their conservation, (2) Collect native wild relative populations not yet represented in the public genebanks, botanical gardens, or other conservation repositories, (3) Make native CWRs accessible to plant breeders, researchers, and educators, (4) Protect native CWRs in their natural habitats, and (5) Raise public awareness about native CWRs.