International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Documentation of crop wild relatives

The International Treaty released in 2021 an updated list of passport descriptors for crop wild relatives conserved in situ. This publication provides an international standard to ensure consistency in the way data about plant genetic material of crop wild relatives (CWR) are documented and exchanged around the world.

This booklet is available in EnglishArabicFrench and Spanish, and is expected to be particularly helpful for researchers, plant breeders, and conservationists worldwide, in addition to national focal points of the International Treaty.



Development of a globally agreed list of descriptors for in situ crop wild relatives documentation


Starting date: 1 June 2019

Ending date: 30 June 2023

Donor: Government of Germany – BMEL

FAO project code: GCP /GLO/974/GER

Related Treaty Program:  Global Information System (GLIS)


Project Objectives:   The project addresses the gaps and the lack of coherence in the documentation methods for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA), in particular for Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) conserved under 'in situ' conditions. Those gaps represent a barrier for the sharing of information in the scientific community and for the development of added-value services for plant breeders and organizations working on agricultural biodiversity. The project consolidated work done on CWR descriptors by recent initiatives developed at national and international levels from different regions.

During the first phase, it took as a starting point the Core Descriptors for in situ conservation of CWR v.1 published by Bioversity International. Besides, it built on recent experiences conducted by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) of FAO and its Global Information System (GLIS) and DOIs (GCP/GLO/685/GER), as well as international projects such as the Horizon 2020 Farmer’s Pride.  

The project organized an online consultation from February to April 2020 involving more than 107 experts from 87 institutions in 48 countries and of authoritative international experts of the Core Advisory Group (CAG) that helped to approve a revised strategic short list of CWR in situ documentation descriptors.

The second phase of the project started in August 2020 for the testing of the globally validated descriptors against national cases in Africa and in Latin America and the Caribbean. The mapping of these descriptors against existing catalogues and inventories may facilitate the establishment of national databases of in situ CWR. An extension in 2021  expanded the testing to selected countries in Europe and Asia. The project drafted and circulated for comments a white paper with options to support countries with the development of national inventories on CWR in situ and possible recommendations to strengthen regional and international collaboration in this area.

The third phase of the project started at the end of 2021 and will run until 30 June 2023.  The project will support Contracting Parties in the development and connection of national databases of CWR. In particular, it will further update and promote the global descriptors, develop a module to facilitate the connection of CWR data and work with selected countries for the sharing of the data in GLIS. This phase will also bring to the attention of the Ninth Governing Body the outcomes of the project and will support coordinated actions with regional and global partners, projects and initiatives.

The project engages national focal points of the International Treaty, researchers, plant breeders, and conservationists worldwide. On-farm management of PGRFA is not addressed in this project


Notification on project inception

News on the publication of CWRI Descriptors 

Visit the Global Information System on Plant Genetic Resources to get access to relevant publications on crop descriptors and PGRFA documentation.

Brochure: Fostering documentation and use of Crop Wild Relatives: EN - FR - ES - AR


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