GSPC Target 9

Objective I: Plant diversity is well understood, documented and recognized

Objective II: Plant diversity is urgently and effectively conserved

Objective III: Plant diversity is used in a sustainable and equitable manner

Objective IV: Education and awareness about plant diversity, its role in sustainable livelihoods and importance to all life on earth is promoted

Objective V: The capacities and public engagement necessary to implement the Strategy have been developed


The genetic resources of crops and other socio-economically important valuable plant species are the biological base for food security and directly or indirectly support the livelihoods of every person on Earth.

This target addresses:

      • Wild relatives of crops - i.e. species that are related to crops and can potentially donate genes to them in breeding and improvement programmes. Such species may provide beneficial traits to crops, such as pest and disease resistance, drought tolerance etc.

      • Traditional varieties or landraces that constitute the 'within-species' diversity and that provide resilience and local adaptation in traditional farming systems.

      • Other socio-economically important plants, such as medicinal plants, ornamental species, tree and fodder crops etc. that support the livelihoods of millions of people around the world.

Such plant genetic resources, and the associated indigenous and local knowledge, are among the most important, and often the only assets available in many poor rural communities. Their significance increases as other resources dwindle or disappear.

Download an introduction to Target 9 here.

Learn more

The Global Crop Diversity Trust has been established to ensure the conservation of crop diversity for food security worldwide. It works within the framework of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which is the key global instrument for the conservation of genetic diversity for food and agriculture.

The target calls for 70% of the genetic diversity of crops, crop wild relatives and other socioeconomically important plant species to be conserved. Theory and practice demonstrate that, with an appropriate strategy, 70% of the genetic diversity of a species can be contained in a relatively small sample (generally less than 1,000 accessions). While the target has probably already been met for 200-300 major crops, the challenge is to meet this target for the many thousands of other species included in the target.

Crop genetic diversity is maintained on-farm as well as ex situ in genebanks. By combining genebank, on-farm and other in situ approaches, it is believed that the target could be reached for all crops in production. Working with local communities would also help to address the issue of maintenance of associated indigenous and local knowledge.

Other socio-economically important species, such as medicinal plants, should be selected on a case-by-case basis according to national priorities.

Implementation of this target contributes to Target 13 of the Aichi targets of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020:

T13: By 2020, the genetic diversity of cultivated plants and farmed and domesticated animals and of wild relatives, including other socio-economically as well as culturally valuable species, is maintained, and strategies have been developed and implemented for minimizing genetic erosion and safeguarding their genetic diversity.

This target is also closely linked to the Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO). 

In July 2011, the 13th regular session of the FAO Commission on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA 13)  adopted the Second Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA).



A toolkit to support the development of national strategies for the conservation and sustainable exploitation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) has been produced by Bioversity International and partners. This suggests the following steps in developing a national strategy:

      • Creating a national inventory of crop wild relatives and landraces.

      • Setting conservation priorities.

      • Carrying out taxonomic, ecogeographic and genetic analysis of priority species.

      • Identification of threats to PGRFA diversity.

      • Conservation gap analysis.

      • Development of in situ and ex situ conservation strategies.

      • Promoting use of conserved diversity.

Bioversity International has produced a range of training materials relevant to the conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.

Many of the training packages include lecture support notes, exercises, notes for trainers, further reading, references, links and slides. Some materials are available in different languages. The thematic areas covered include:

      • Ex situ conservation/Genebank management.

      • Forest genetic resources.

      • In situ conservation.

      • Molecular analysis of diversity.

      • Plant breeding.

      • Plant collecting.

      • Policy.

      • Spatial analysis.


Tools and resources

Please also check in the database of Tools of Resources for Case Studies relevant to this target.


EUFORGEN is a collaborative programme among European countries to promote and safeguard the forest genetic diversity. 


Handbook for Genebanks No. 8: Manual of Seed Handling in Genebanks (1676KB)

This manual published by Bioversity International is the standard reference for genebank work and one of the few sources of practical information for genebank curators and technicians on seed conservation, technology, storage and management. 


Protected areas and the challenge of conserving crop wild relatives (3251KB)

It is widely recognized that many of the world’s protected areas contain CWR diversity and yet few specific actions have been taken to conserve these species. This paper draws attention to the need for a global approach to conserving priority and threatened CWR in the wild. 



Crop Wild Relatives

In 2010, FAO launched the 2nd Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (SoWPGR-2), providing a detailed overview of recent trends in PGRFA conservation and use around the world. It was based on information gathered from more than 100 countries. The report noted that there has been progress in securing PGRFA diversity with a larger numbers of international and national gene banks; 1,750 gene banks worldwide, with approximately 130 of them each holding more than 10,000 accessions. The report states that the number of crop wild relatives is decreasing and more work needs to be carried out conserving them especially on a farm level as many carry import genetic traits which is vital for maintaining the genetic diversity. More information is available this video link 

Bioversity International, along with the CGIAR consortium, are actively involved in research on CWR, and in-situ crop diversity conservation. Their main objective is to support and enable effective and efficient local, national and global in-situ conservation. Work towards these objective has included creating manuals of best practise for CWR conservation and through a detail web portal providing detailed information on crop wild relatives. (

Seed Conservation

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, is largest global effort towards securing the genetic diversity of important food crops and their wild relatives. It currently holds 700,000 seed samples, originating from almost every country in the world.

On farm in situ conservation

Much important plant diversity can be found in farmers’ fields as well as in unmanaged agricultural ecosystems. The SoWPGR-2 reviewed the current state of knowledge regarding the amount and distribution of landraces, CWR and other useful plants and assesses the ongoing efforts to conserve and manage them in- situ in their natural surroundings.

A project called PGR Secure initiated by the European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR) is developing methods to facilitate the identification of important areas for crop wild relatives, as well as providing the tools for the In-situ network. More information on the project strategy can be accessed here

Protected Areas

A number of countries have crop wild relative found within their protected areas

•    The UK has identified 152 priority CWR found in among 17 sites all of which are protected areas
•    In Ethiopia, wild populations of Coffea arabica are being conserved in the montane rainforest.

Useful organizations related to Target 9

The Global Crop Diversity Trust is an independent international organization focusing on conserving crop diversity and is actively involved in many projects worldwide. Find out more here

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which is the key global instrument for the conservation of genetic diversity for food and agriculture

A major new initiative was launched in 2010 to systematically find, gather, catalogue, use, and save the wild relatives of wheat, rice, beans, potato, barley, lentils, chickpea, and other essential food crops, in order to help protect global food supplies against the imminent threat of climate change, and strengthen future food security. The initiative is led by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, working in partnership with national agricultural research institutes, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The work is scheduled to take 10 years, from determining where to collect, through to having material ready for crop breeding programs. Watch a video about the project by clicking here.



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