An updated checklist of plant agrobiodiversity of northern Italy
Northern Italy is an area particularly suitable for the cultivation of different crops. It used to be characterized by a high agrobiodiversity. However, it is estimated that over the last decades, this area experienced a genetic erosion of more than 90%, resulting in the loss of many traditional plant genetic resources (PGR). Nevertheless, recent surveys found an unexpectedly high agrobiodiversity which remains. The presented study aims to provide a complete overview of plant agrobiodiversity (in terms of crop landraces, old cultivars and neglected crops) in northern Italy using a mixed approach of literature research and ethnobotanical field surveys. In addition, this paper aims to investigate on farm and ex situ conservation activities performed in the study area. 810 entities were found, of which 26 were identified as neglected crops, 377 as landraces (plus 124 doubtful landraces) and 99 as old cultivars (plus 184 doubtful old cultivars). 248 entities were here recorded for the first time through field surveys. It clearly emerges that by using an ethnobotanical approach, several PGR can still be found in the study area especially in small farms and home gardens. We describe hotspots of crop diversity and areas in which there is still a lack of knowledge of local agrobiodiversity. Only 43% of the PGR recorded are conserved long-term in seed banks, underlying the fact that great efforts are needed to ensure the ex situ conservation of PGR in northern Italy. Careful interventions are needed to enhance the on-farm conservation status of the crop diversity reported here by enhancing its demand and its accessibility.