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Why we should grow Native Wildflower Seeds

Conservation Section, Why we should grow native species. Design By nature - Handing on our Heritage. Why we should grow native!

Conservation of Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

The ever increasing demands being made on the earth's natural and cultivated resources to feed and sustain human life have led to a serious depletion in the diversity of plant and animal life forms on the planet. Many natural and semi-natural habitats have either been altered significantly or in some cases destroyed due to intensive cultivation practices. Allied to this, modern food production systems by their nature have led to the use of a small number of uniform high producing breeds and species of animals and crops. This erosion in the diversity of plant and animal life forms has been viewed with increasing alarm for some time throughout the world.

At a United Nations Conference on the Environment held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 this problem was seriously addressed. 
The outcome of the Conference was the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which Ireland ratified in 1996. A key element of the Convention provides for the preservation and sustainable use of the earth's biological resources to guarantee food security for present and future generations.
Overall responsibility for implementation of the Convention in Ireland rests with the Department for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. The Department of Agriculture and Food, however, has direct responsibility for the co-ordination and promotion of measures for the conservation and utilisation of genetic resources for food and agriculture. In this task the Department is aided and advised by a Committee on Genetic Resources for Food, Agriculture and Forestry which was established in 1996. 


2. General Conservation Policy and Strategy
Various organisations including State, Universities, Teagasc, the Irish Genetic Resources Conservation Trust and other non-governmental organisations are involved in various conservation activities. However, the management and use of genetic resources in Ireland are in the hands of farmers, breeders organisations and the commercial industry. Co-operation is crucial to the better management and conservation of genetic resources. Efforts must be made to enable the development and use of a wider array of genetic resources in commercial agriculture. The effective use of indigenous genetic resources is perhaps the most cost effective and essential component of conservation and it must be a key objective of national breeding strategies and programmes for the different species. The Department of Agriculture and Food with the aid and advice of the Advisory Committee on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is involved in the co-ordination and promotion of measures aimed at achieving policy objectives in relation to the conservation of animal, plant and forestry genetic resources.
The following primary policy objectives have been identified: 
the development and utilisation of genetic resources to increase national food security. 
the identification, evaluation and conservation of unique genetic resources whose survival is being threatened or endangered. 
the promotion of public awareness and support for genetic resource conservation management strategies. 
the participation in international and E.U programmes aimed at co-coordinated management of genetic resources. 


3. Conservation of Animal Genetic Resource
The management and conservation of animal genetic resources in Ireland is primarily carried out by the relevant breed societies for the different breeds. A list of the names, addresses and telephone and fax numbers of the breed societies for all cattle, horse and sheep breeds is given at the end of this document. An inventory and characterisation for all species and breeds was carried out in 1998. Detailed information on the individual species and breeds may be obtained via the Internet at www.fao.org/dad-is or directly from the relevant breed society. Assistance and support for the characterisation, utilisation and management of the various cattle breeds is available through the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF), Shinagh House, Bandon, Co. Cork. The Kerry, Dexter and Irish Maol cattle, Galway sheep, Connemara pony and Irish Draught breeds are designated as endangered. In the case of these endangered breeds a number of schemes and measures are implemented directly by the Department of Agriculture and Food viz.
REPS Scheme - There is a supplementary measure under this scheme for the protection of endangered animal breeds in Ireland. Financial assistance equivalent to 100 ECU's per livestock unit is paid for in-situ conservation. Further details may be obtained from Agricultural Structures Division, Department of Agriculture and Food, Kildare St. Dublin 2.
Kerry Cattle Scheme - A grant of 60 per calf registered in the Kerry Cattle Herdbook is paid to herd owners with 5 or more breeding females which are bred pure. Further details may be obtained from Livestock Breeding Division, Department of Agriculture and Food, Farnham St. Cavan.
Research/Development Projects - Funding has been provided for a number of Research/Development projects to aid the conservation of endangered Kerry cattle, Galway sheep and Connemara pony breeds. These projects are aimed at evaluation of genetic diversity, characterisation, management and utilisation of these endangered resources. Further information may be obtained from Secretary, Committee on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Agriculture House, Kildare St., Dublin 2.


4. Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources
The range of indigenous plant genetic resources is relatively narrow but the location and collection of these resources poses practical difficulties. 
A large proportion of the agricultural land area of Ireland is in grassland. While modern grass species have replaced older herbage species and landraces, there are still old pastures and rough grazing which contain traits which can still be useful as a source of genetic material in current herbage breeding programmes. The Teagasc Herbage breeding programme based at Oakpark, Carlow contains an important collection of Irish bred grasses and samples of older species used as a basis for the breeding programme.
The potato is of immense historical, commercial and cultural significance to Ireland. An important collection of indigenous potato varieties dating from famine times is maintained at the Department of Agriculture and Food Potato Centre, Tops Farm, Raphoe, Co. Donegal. Also, many commercially successful potato varieties were developed through the Teagasc Potato Breeding Programme located at Oakpark, Co. Carlow. An extensive collection of these is maintained at Oakpark.
Old indigenous varieties of Rye, Bristle Oats, Wheat and Barley were once commonly cultivated in Ireland. Some of these are still to be found in the wild and on the islands off the west coast of Ireland and are also stored in a genebank in Trinity College Botanic Gardens, Dublin.
The Department of Agriculture and Food has run a successful Malting Barley breeding programme for many years at Ballinacurra, Co. Cork. A small but important collection of Malting Barley lines is maintained there.
An important collection of Cereals is maintained by University College Dublin.
There are other species of possible agricultural importance which still exist in the wild. These species are seriously threatened with extinction unless conservation activities are undertaken in the near future. Examples of such species include Smooth Brome, Meadow Saffron, Sea Kale, Meadow Barley, Chives, Sea Pea.
An important collection of apple germplasm is maintained at University College Dublin.
Funding is being provided by the Department of Agriculture and Food for a number of projects to aid the conservation of grasses, cereals, potatoes, brassicas and apples. Further information on these projects may be obtained from Secretary, Committee on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Agriculture House, Kildare St., Dublin 2.


5. European Union Programmes
National commitments to the conservation of genetic resources are reflected at E.U level. The E.U is involved in conservation activities through two specific Programmes: the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS) and the Programme for Conservation and Utilisation of Genetic Resources for Agriculture (Council Regulation (EC) No. 1467/94). In Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and Food is the implementing authority for both these measures.
The objective of the REPS Scheme is to promote farming practices which are environmentally friendly and to protect endangered animal and plant species. A major feature of the scheme is that it focuses on conservation of threatened species in-situ or in their natural habitat. The advantage of this approach is that not only is conservation of the species addressed but also maintenance of the natural environment in which the species exists is actively encouraged. 
To-date in Ireland and indeed across the Community, animal species have been the main focus for activities. One example of such an activity was detailed earlier in the section on animal genetic resources.
The objective of the E.U Programme under Reg. No. 1467/94 which is complementary to the REPS Scheme, is to co-ordinate and promote at Community level work on the conservation, collection and utilisation of genetic resources in Agriculture undertaken in Member States. The Programme encourages not only trans-national collaboration but also co-operation within Member States among State, Semi-State bodies, Universities, commercial organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO's). This ensures that the sense of ownership of conservation activities is truly inclusive. 
Direct E.U financial support (usually 50% of project cost) is available for approved projects. Further information on the Programme may be had from the Department of Agriculture and Food, Backweston, Leixlip, Co. Kildare.


6. FAO Programmes
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations is deeply committed to the conservation of plant and animal genetic resources for the benefit of all mankind. The FAO through its Programmes identifies endangered species throughout the world and co-ordinates institutional and trans-national initiatives to preserve these vital resources. 
By means of the International Undertaking (to which Ireland is a signatory) germplasm of rare and important plant species is conserved in the genebanks of international research organisations and made freely available to all interested researchers and organisations. Further details on FAO conservation programmes can be accessed via the Internet at www.fao.org
The Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS) has been developed by FAO to provide extensive searchable databases, tools, guidelines, references, links and contacts to aid the management of farm animal genetic resources. This system is accessible via the Internet at www.fao.org/dad-is.

Extracts from Flora Locale charter on growing native wild flora

DBN Seed Pledge and Grower-Producer Declaration

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