Agroscope, Institute for Sustainability Sciences ISS, Switzerland

Genetic diversity in agriculture

Genetic diversity – the variety of genes and alleles within a species – constitutes the most basic level of biodiversity, and is an important prerequisite for productivity and sustainability in agricultural production systems. We have developed and applied various methods to determine genetic diversity on farms in Europe, Ukraine and Uganda. A questionnairebased survey conducted on a total of 203 farms has shown that the genetic diversity of crops and livestock varies greatly between different regions, and depends upon the prevailing production systems. In order to obtain a more accurate insight into the genetic diversity of grassland, we studied 60 populations of orchard grass from Bulgaria, Norway and Switzerland with molecular genetic markers. In doing so, we learned that although this species exhibits a very large variability within the populations, the differences between the populations tend to be minor.

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