Guatemala: interactive map uses wild plants to aid traditional crops

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Guatemala: interactive map uses wild plants to aid traditional crops

A wild lima bean included in the atlas

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have developed a digital tool to aid the conservation of wild plant species and better manage traditionally cultivated crops.

The interactive atlas of 105 Guatemalan plant species is designed as an educational tool for local scientists and land managers. The plants included in the tool are related to 29 crops that were chosen for their agricultural importance in Guatemala.

USDA Agriculture Research Service (ARS) botanist Karen Williams explained that the genes of these wild plants may hold clues to addressing the pests and diseases that impact their genetic relatives.

“Guatemala has many genetically diverse native plants closely related to some of our most important crops, including corn, beans, peppers, and potatoes. Some of these crop wild relatives are found only in Guatemala, and they have genes that equip them with survival mechanisms that may be useful to protect crops,” Williams said in an ARS publication.

The project has been 10 years in the making  and provides access to decades' worth of regional data. Users can zoom in on the map and see exactly where each plant is found. The map also provides climatic data for each plant, indicates protected habitat areas and shows geographic variation.

The atlas is currently available in Spanish and can be accessed here. An English translation is expected next year.

Photo: Karen Williams

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