North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station
The wild-growing relatives of the grain crops are useful for long-term worldwide crop improvement research. There are neglected examples that should be accessioned as living seeds in gene banks. Some of the grain crops, amaranth, barnyard millet, proso millet, quinoa, and foxtail millet, have understudied unique and potentially useful crop wild relatives in North America. Other grain crops, barley, buckwheat, and oats, have fewer relatives in North America that are mostly weeds from other continents with more diverse crop wild relatives. The expanding abilities of genomic science are a reason to accession the wild species since there are improved ways to study evolution within genera and make use of wide gene pools. Rare wild species, especially quinoa relatives in North American, should be acquired by gene banks in cooperation with biologists that already study and conserve at-risk plant populations. Many of the grain crop wild relatives are weeds that have evolved herbicide resistance that could be used in breeding new herbicide-resistant cultivars, so well-documented examples should be accessioned and also vouchered in gene banks.