Wild cousins of 32 crops including wheat and sugarcane could add as much in $196 billion of value at the farm-gate level by boosting yields and resilience, according to research by PWC for Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.
The current value to farm crops from higher productivity and disease and stress resistance derived from wild relatives is now estimated at $42 billion for 29 of the world’s most important food crops and $68 billion when corn, soybeans and sugarcane are included, PWC wrote in an e-mailed report today.
Kew has set up the Millennium Seed Bank partnership to prepare for future climate change, and aims to store seed from 25 percent of the world’s plants suitable for saving by 2020. Between 60,000 to 100,000 plant species face a threat of extinction, according to Kew.
"Adapting agriculture to climate change is one of the most urgent challenges of our time," Ruth Eastwood, coordinator for Kew’s Crop Wild Relatives Project, was cited as saying in the statement. "Crop wild relatives are already being used to make improvements to our food crops right now, but they are underutilized."
The current value of wild crop relatives was derived from the economic benefit over the useful economic life cycle of traits in farm crops, according to PWC. Potential value is derived from future improved crops.
The annual gross production value of the seed bank’s 29 priority crops was $581 billion in 2010, climbing to $950 billion with the inclusion of corn, soybeans and sugarcane, according to PWC.