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In their effort to increase the quantity and quality of food production, plant breeders and agronomists have sacrificed genetic variability in favor of a few guaranteed high-yielding strains, thereby limiting available alternatives in the face of changing environmental conditions and possible catastrophes.
In this vitally important book, J. G. Hawkes examines the ways in which cultivated plants have evolved and diversified, the importance of this diversity, and the means by which it can be protected and made available to breeders throughout the world.
His interdisciplinary approach, which begins with a discussion of the processes by which Neolithic man began converting an unpromising group of weeds into the staple food sources we know today, will engage the population geneticist, the agroecologist, the physiologist, the taxonomist, even the archaeologist and ethnobotanist. His final chapter on global strategies for conserving and utilizing the genetic heritage of plants drives home the urgent and practical message of the book—the necessity of maintaining crop plant diversity as we attempt to feed our planet’s growing population.