Integrating evolutionary potential and ecological function into agricultural seed production to meet demands for the decade of restoration

Elizabeth A. Leger, Alison C. Agneray, Owen W. Baughman, E. Charles Brummer, Todd E. Erickson, Kristina M. Hufford, Karin M. Kettenring

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration will result in an unprecedented need for seeds. Agricultural production, or the growing of plants under controlled conditions to produce desired resources, can be a helpful tool for providing the quantities of seeds needed for large-scale restoration. In some ecosystems, agricultural production of native plant seeds is part of the restoration process. This is particularly true for native plants that are similar to major food crops, such as native grasses. However, conventional crops have contrasting characteristics (e.g. fast growing, high yield for a focused use) from those desired in restored vegetation (plants capable of surviving and providing ecosystem services in variable environments). This contrast leads to significant, often opposing differences in desirable characteristics in crop versus natural systems. Examples include rapid germination in domesticated crops versus seed dormancy in wild plants, uniform germination, growth and flowering versus bet-hedging strategies, or high seed retention versus seed dispersal. While it may be useful to maximize productivity of native plants in agricultural environments with similar trait modifications, for restoration, the demands of the natural environment should be primary, and agricultural production should aim to maximize the diversity, function, and evolutionary potential of native species. Any perceived benefits that come from the production of large quantities of inexpensive seeds that cannot meet the needs of wild communities are short-sighted. We suggest research directions that will be needed to meld agricultural production needs with those of restoration practitioners, as a challenge for those invested in the procurement and use of wild seeds.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere13543
JournalRestoration Ecology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Sept 2021

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