Earlier this week, members of the Missouri Botanical Garden horticulture staff returned from a research trip in the Central Asia country of Kyrgyzstan. There, the team’s project involved conserving crop wild relatives of popular fruits like apples, apricots and plums found in Kyrgyzstan’s highly threatened walnut fruit forest.
The goal is to preserve genetic diversity that is often lost in modern agriculture, which is based on a single-crop system. On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Sarah Fenske talked to Megan Engelhardt, manager of the Botanical Garden's seed bank, and horticulturist Dave Gunn about how the staff went about bringing seeds back to add to the Botanical Garden’s seed bank to propagate.
Check out images from their trip on Gunn’s Instagram.
Forests account for a relatively small area of land in Kyrgyzstan, but the country is home to tracts of globally important fruit-and-nut forests.
Poverty in rural areas has forced locals to use natural resources at a rate that is driving some species toward extinction. Firewood collection, collection of fruit, and especially overgrazing are destroying forested areas – causing Kyrgyzstan to have one of the most endangered forest types in Central Asia.
The Botanical Garden's travels abroad are focused on conserving the country’s fruit and nut forest plant species in seed banks and botanical garden collections, and providing resources and training at the country’s only botanical garden so they can continue to carry out this work.
So far, the staff has collected fruit and nut tree seeds to bring back for long-term storage, such as from the malus niedzwetzkyana apple fruit that is distinct because of its deep-red skin and bright-red flesh.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Alexis Moore. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.
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