The contributions of agrobiodiversity to a variety of agroecosystem functions and characteristics are well documented. The need to conserve genetic resources as the fundamental source of agrobiodiversity is also well documented. Targeted and efficient conservation strategies for the array of plant species that contribute to agrobiodiversity will involve integrated approaches which use the best approach for each species and in each system where diversity is found.
To use existing genetic diversity most effectively in an array of agroecosystems, both formal and informal plant breeding systems are vital. Just as an integrated approach to conservation will result in more efficiency in protecting genetic resources, so will integrated approaches to plant breeding result in efficiency of utilizing genetic resources and better meeting the various needs of agroecosystems with respect to biodiversity.
Research and development activities which serve to link conservation and use more closely will promote the realization of both objectives. The involvement of farmers and farm communities, as holders of valuable genetic resources, in those activities at early stages fosters the dual objectives by preserving and enhancing traits which are often ignored by the formal sector, while at the same time providing access to much-needed productivity increases. The appropriate, locally determined balance between the two will lend stability and sustainability to both crop production and crop genetic resource conservation. By blending the effective use of locally adapted landraces and infusing genes for specifically needed production traits, the valuable, farmer-held genetic material will continue to be conserved, on mutually agreed terms, for potential use by formal sector breeders.
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