Crop Vulnerability: Carya
Long-established native tree populations reflect local adaptations. Representation of diverse populations in accessible ex situ collections that link information on phenotypic expression to information on spatial and temporal origination is the most efficient means of preserving and exploring genetic diversity, which is the foundation of breeding and crop improvement. Throughout North America, sympatric Carya species sharing the same ploidy level tend to hybridize, permitting gene flow that contributes to regional diversity and adaptation. The topographic isolation of many fragmented populations, some of which are small, places native Carya populations of United States, Mexico, and Asia in a vulnerable position and justifies systematic collection and characterization. The characterization of indigenous Mexican pecan and other Carya populations will facilitate use for rootstocks and scion breeding and will contribute to pecan culture. The Asian species, as a group, are not only geographically isolated from North American species, but also occur in disjunct, fragmented populations isolated from other Asian species. Section Sinocarya includes the members of the genus most vulnerable to genetic loss. With all species, recognition of utility based on characterization of ex situ collections may contribute to the establishment of in situ reserves. Global Carya genetic resources should be cooperatively collected, maintained, characterized, and developed. The integration of crop wild relatives into characterization and breeding efforts represents a challenging opportunity for both domestic and international cooperation. Genomic tools used on the accessible collections of the National Collection of Genetic Resources for Pecans and Hickories (NCGR-Carya) offer great potential to elucidate genetic adaptation in relation to geographic distribution. The greatest progress will be made by integrating the disciplines of genetics, botany, pathology, entomology, ecology, and horticulture into internationally cooperative efforts. International germplasm exchange is becoming increasingly complicated by a combination of protectionist policies and legitimate phytosanitary concerns. Cooperative international evaluation of in situ autochthonous germplasm provides a valuable safeguard to unintended pathogen exchange associated with certain forms of germplasm distribution, while enabling beneficial communal exploration and directed exchange. This is threatened by the "proprietary" focus on intellectual property. The greatest risk to the productive development of the pecan industry might well be a myopic focus on pecan production through the lens of past practice. The greatest limitation to pecan culture in the western United States is reduced water quantity and quality; in the eastern United States the challenge is disease susceptibility; and insufficient cold hardiness in the northern United States. The greatest benefit for the entire industry might be achieved by tree size reduction through both improved rootstocks and scions, which will improve both nut production and tree management, impacting all areas of culture. This achievement will likely necessitate incorporation of crop wild relatives in breeding, broad cooperation in the testing leading to selection, and development of improved methods linking phenotypic expression to genomic characterization. The development of a database to appropriately house information available to a diverse research community will facilitate cooperative research. The acquisition of funds to pursue development of those tools will require the support of the pecan industry, which in the United States, is regionally fragmented and focused on marketing rather than crop development.