• Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture
  • Agriculture: A priority for sustainable development in the Americas

Cryoconservation, a modern response to the challenges of long-term plant conservation

Cryoconservation, a modern response to the challenges of long-term plant conservation

This scientific technique has a strategic role to play in conserving tropical genetic resources in developing countries.

San Jose, Costa Rica, July 16, 2013 (IICA).In recent decades, and for different reasons, genetic resources of great importance for food security now and in the future have been lost. According to the first book published in Spanish on cryconservation in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), this trend will continue, making plant conservation with the most modern and economical techniques available all the more urgent.

The book Crioconservación de Plantas en América Latina y el Caribe compiles scientific papers from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and two international organizations.

The book is the first published in Spanish on cryconservation in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).

This book is the result of a joint effort among the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement of France and the Universidad Veracruzana of Mexico.

The book is important because Latin America and the Caribbean are home to 9 of the 34 so-called mega-diverse countries in the world, have many endemic (not found anywhere else in the world) plants, and were the place of origin for numerous species cultivated today.

The loss of genes, which is irreversible, leads to the loss of plants that can help combat pests and diseases and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Therefore, the conservation of the wealth of biological diversity found in this part of the world is essential in ensuring food security worldwide.

In the foreword to the book, Victor Villalobos, Director General of IICA, stated that the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources are key to ensuring agroindustrial production, meeting environmental challenges and guaranteeing the continued existence of the human race.

Cryogenic techniques, which involve storing genetic material, preferably at the temperature of liquid nitrogen (-321° F), make it possible to conserve such material in an unaltered state and offer advantages in terms of lower costs and fewer processes.

In 2010, according to the book, there were 925 million people in the world facing severe hunger, and the world population is expected to continue growing to one billion by 2050. It is known as well that the diet of 60% of the world population consists basically of rice, wheat, corn and potatoes; and that some 30 crops are the source of 95% of the energy acquired from food.

In view of this situation, the book attaches crucial importance to efforts to protect the biological diversity of such plants, in order to respond to growing environmental stress, and give farmers and researchers more opportunities to improve them and make them fully resistant to threats such as drought, salinity, floods, soil deterioration and extreme temperatures.

It is hoped that the 14-chapter book will lead to the creation of a network that will contribute significantly to the training of human resources, the dissemination of findings and the application of knowledge generated in this field, all of which will benefit the long-term conservation of the abundant and, in some cases, unequalled plant genetic diversity of LAC.

The book may be downloaded free of charge at:

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