A portal and a central database on fruit crops and wild fruit species in Central Asia are now available on the Internet.
The database contains 2,943 records of morphological data on crops, 1,571 crop descriptors and 258 socioeconomic descriptors, as well as 10,769 records of socioeconomic data. Researchers can sift through some 500,000 items of data on the database.
The portal and database were presented at an international workshop at the headquarters of Bioversity International in Maccarese, Italy, on 12 June 2013. This is one of the results of the collaborative project by Bioversity International and UNEP-GEF 'In situ/on farm conservation and use of agro-biodiversity (horticultural crops and wild fruit species) in Central Asia'.
According to Muhabbat Turdieva, of Bioversity International, the project started in 2006 to respond to threats to the diversity of important horticultural crops in situ (in natural habitat; eg logging and excessive use of forest resources, overgrazing, conversion of forest land to agricultural use etc) and on farm (eg the replacement of local varieties by foreign high-yielding varieties, mechanization, intensification of production, lack of access to planting materials of local varieties etc). Overall, the project aimed to ensure conservation and sustainable use of existing biodiversity of 12 target fruit crops in Central Asia. Its outcomes will also contribute towards increasing the production of farms and farmers' income through the use of local diversity of various fruit crops.
The workshop brought together project representatives and participants from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as scientists from Bioversity International, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Archeologia Arborea Foundation, to launch the portal and database. As participants noted, they will make available data on genetic resources of local fruit trees diversity collected under the project to everyone, and most importantly to researchers. According to Simone Mori, a consultant who helped to develop the system, it is easy to access the database, which is available at http://centralasia.bioversity.asia/. Users can get open data by signing up on the website and creating an account. But some limited access data can be obtained by filling in a special application form on the website. The database contains data on crops, morphological traits of varieties, the institutes involved in data collection during the project, socioeconomic data of the households, data on the management of fruit trees etc. There is also information about 258 households where these varieties are grown.
Dr Stephan Weise, Deputy Director General on Research at Bioversity International, noted that the project has great importance for the future of rural communities in both Central Asia and beyond.
It will help to spread the knowledge Central Asian farmers have, facilitate researchers' firsthand access to data on genetic resources which is systematically organized and encourage cooperation among farmers and researchers worldwide.