Glossary There exist diverse definitions and connotations associated with terminology used in plant genetic resource. This short glossary does not present a

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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

A.K. Singh, Wild Relatives of Cultivated Plants in India

DOI 10.1007/978-981-10-5116-6


There exist diverse definitions and connotations associated with terminology used 

in plant genetic resource. This short glossary does not present a standardized for-

mulation for the use of these terms but describes how certain key terms have been 

used in the present book.

 1. Agriculture: Agriculture is the science or practice of farming, including culti-

vation of the soil for growing of crops and rearing of animals to produce food 

and for other human needs. It evolved by man interactions with bio-resources 

and the landscape with suitable modifications in them for economic 


 2. Agrobiodiversity: An evolutionary divergent but highly interrelated compo-

nent of biodiversity dealing with variation of plants, animals, fish, insects, 

microbes, avian, etc., used directly or indirectly for food and agriculture. It 

comprises the diversity of genetic resources (varieties, breeds) and species used 

for food, fodder, fiber, fuel, and pharmaceuticals. It also includes the diversity 

of non-harvested species that support production (soil microorganisms, preda-

tors, pollinators) and those in the wider environment support that agroecosys-

tems (agricultural, pastoral, forest and aquatic) as well as the diversity of 

agroecosystems (after FAO).

 3. Alternate source of food: Alternative sources of food like new plant species, 

used by tribal communities that most people do not think of as edible and 


 4. Backcrossing: It is crossing of a hybrid with one of its parents (recurrent par-

ent) or an individual genetically like it, to achieve offspring with a genetic iden-

tical or closer to that.

 5. Biogeographical Realms: These are large spatial regions within which ecosys-

tems share a broadly similar biological evolutionary history

 6. Biological Diversity Act: Promulgated in 2002 to regulate, access, conserva-

tion and sustainable use of biodiversity, protection of associated community 

knowledge, secure sharing of benefit on commercial use, conservation of rich 

areas, and protection and rehabilitation of threatened species, involving states.


 7. Biological diversity: It refers to variation of all living organisms, their genetic 

material, and the ecosystems of which they are a part. It is described at three 

levels: genetic, species, and ecosystem diversity.

 8. Biological species: It is the most widely accepted species concept. It defines 

species in terms of interbreeding. Ernst Mayr defined a species as “the groups 

of interbreeding natural populations that are reproductively isolated from other 

such groups.”

 9. Biosphere reserves: These are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems 

which promote the conservation of biodiversity (encompassing all species) 

with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognized within the frame-

work of UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) program and nominated by 

national governments.

 10.  Biosystematics: The study of living organisms based on observational and 

experimental data on the breeding system for classification of biological units 

into taxa, making taxonomic decisions, based on relationships, variability, and 

dynamic of interrelationships.

 11.  Biosystematy: It deals with attempt to (1) delimit the natural biotic units and 

(2) to apply these units to a system of nomenclature.

 12.  Biotype: A population of individuals with identical genetic constitution. It may 

be homozygous or heterozygous.

 13.  Carbon sequestration: A natural or artificial process by which carbon dioxide 

is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form. Here, it refers 

to capturing of CO


 from atmosphere through biological process of plants, the 

photosynthesis, and store on long-term basis.

 14.  Cenospecies: It refers to the closely related independent species, capable of 

interbreeding and thereby gene exchange.

 15.  Center of diversity: A geographical area where a plant species first developed 

its distinctive properties (in farmers’ fields or in the wild). A primary center of 

diversity is the region of true origin (often referred to as the center of origin), 

and secondary centers of diversity are regions of subsequent spread of a crop.

 16.  Center of domestication: Region where a plant species was first brought into 

protective use followed by centralized propagation from its local wild progeni-

tors or where agricultural use of a species first originated.

 17.  Center of origin: The center of origin is a geographical area where a plant spe-

cies is either domesticated or is considered to have first appeared in cultivation 

from their wild progenitors developing distinct features. The concept of center 

of origin was developed by NI Vavilov and has been subsequently modified.

 18.  Cisgenes: It refers to those natural indigenous genes, isolated from the crop/

cultivated plant species or from cross-compatible or otherwise species that are 

part of gene pool.

 19.  Cis-genesis: The use of isolated cisgenes coding for desirable traits and incor-

porating them into crop/cultivated using recombinant DNA/GM technology.

 20.  Congeneric species: It refers to those organism/plant species that belong to the 

same genus, but form two or more different species.



 21.  Conservation of biological resources: It is concerned with phenomena that 

affect the maintenance, loss, and restoration of biodiversity and the science of 

sustaining evolutionary processes that engender genetic, population, species, 

and ecosystem diversity.

 22.  Conservation of plant genetic resources: Refers to the collection, mainte-

nance, and preservation of intra- and inter-genetic variation of a species (the 

representative sample of the genetic variation) used in food and agriculture.

 23.  Conspecific species: It refers to those distinct sympatric organism/plant spe-

cies that are distributed/inhabit the same geographic region.

 24.  Convention on Biological Diversity: It is an international treaty adopted at the 

Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and enforced in UN on 29 December 

1993, with three main goals, (i) conservation of biological diversity, (ii) sus-

tainable use of its components, and (iii) fair and equitable sharing of benefits 

arising from use of genetic resources.

 25.  Cytoplasmic male sterility: The complete or partial failure of an individual to 

produce functional male gametes (pollen). Extrachromosomal hereditary com-

ponents determine it.

 26.  Domestication: Taming of population of organisms to harness desirable/eco-

nomic traits.

 27.  Domiculture: Concentrated propagation of  plant biodiversity of economic 

value in a plot by the human community/society as a part of management of 

overall landscape and economic exploitation of targeted species.

 28.  Ecosystem: The totality of environment comprising living things together with 

their nonliving habitat.

 29.  Ecotype: A type evolved in response to a habitat, or compatible with a habitat, 

or a group of biotypes especially adapted to a specific environmental niche.

 30.  Evaluation: Recording of performance of a collections/accessions for desira-

ble traits that are important for genetic enhancement and addition of value 

about specific feature.

 31.  Ex situ conservation: Means conservation of components of genetic material 

of biological diversity outside their natural habitat.

 32.  Experimental taxonomy: The classification of organisms based on experi-

mental facts has been termed “experimental taxonomy.”

 33.  Forma: Lowest category of species with sporadic variation in one or two 


 34.  Gene center: Generally, the geographical region of a species or genus, often 

associated with its origin and maximum variability (genetic variation).

 35.  Gene flow: It is the movement of genes from one population to another popu-

lation, more specifically, the movement of different alleles between the popula-

tions of the same species. It creates diversity within a gene pool of a species.

 36.  Gene Pool: It represents the total accessible genetic diversity of a taxa, includ-

ing the diversity within a cultivated species and in its possible genetically affil-



iated wild species (within genus and beyond), for introgression of genes at a 

given time. It has been classified into:

 (a)  Primary gene pool: Consisting of wild and weedy species/races of cultivated 

species that are freely cross-compatible producing nearly fertile hybrids

 (b)  Secondary gene pool: Consisting of wild relatives, which are cross-com-

patible (despite ploidy/genomic differences), but produce hybrids with 

reduced fertility

 (c)  Tertiary gene pool: Species that are weakly cross-compatible and conven-

tionally do not produce hybrids with cultivated species

 (d)  Quaternary gene pool: The species that are cross-incompatible with culti-

vated species and form the peripheral limits of a genera

 37.  Gene sanctuaries: Conservation of germplasm under natural conditions, refer-

ring to an area where plants of specific species are conserved by protecting the 

area from—human interference.

 38.  Gene sequencing: It may refer to DNA sequencing or a comprehensive variant 

of it. Whole genome sequencing is a laboratory process that determines the 

complete DNA sequence of an organism’s genome at a single time, i.e., the pre-

cise order of nucleotides within a DNA molecule, and involves any technology 

that is used to determine the order of the four bases—adenine, guanine, cyto-

sine, and thymine in a strand of DNA.

 39.  Genetic diversity: The genetic variation within a population and among the 

populations of a species is generally referred to as the genetic diversity.

 40.  Genetic drag: It refers to transfer/incorporation of undesirable traits along with 

desirable traits in interspecific breeding, because of their tight genetic linkage. 

Conventionally, repeated backcrossing to recurrent parent is used to break such 

linkages, but now recombinant cis- genesis DNA approach can overcome this 

by direct transfer of desired genes surpassing backcrossing.

 41.  Genetic engineering: Genetic manipulation, by which an individual, having a 

new combination of inherited properties, is established.

 42.  Genetic erosion: It is loss of existing genetic diversity available in form of spe-

cies, varieties, strains, etc.

 43.  Genetic markers: There are three types of genetic markers, (a) morphological 

markers based on phenotypic traits variation; (b) biochemical markers, which 

are called isozymes, including allelic variants of enzymes; and (c) DNA mark-

ers (or molecular markers), which reveal sites of variation in DNA.

 44.  Genetic resources: The genetic variability available in gene pool of a species 

useful for enhancing/improving genetic potential of a cultivated species about 

agronomic features, resilience against stresses, nutritional traits, etc. over pres-

ent levels.

 45.  Genetic variation: Variation in the genetic constitution of individuals/species 

due to the contribution of segregating genes and gene interactions.

 46.  Genome: The complete set of DNAs, including all its genes or genetic material 

present in a cell or organism. It contains all the information involved in building 

and maintenance of an organism



 47.  Genomics: The study of genes and their function. It is a branch of molecular 

genetics concerned with the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of 

genomes. It deals with study of all the nucleotide sequences, including struc-

tural genes, regulatory sequences, and noncoding DNA segments in the chro-

mosomes of an organism.

 48.  Germplasm collections: Genetically distinct sample of crop species collected 

and maintained at genetic resources center for conservation and use.

 49.  Germplasm: The living genetic resources, in case of plants, mostly seeds, or 

tissue that is maintained for plant breeding, preservation, and other research 

uses. It represents the sum of the genetic variable material available for a 


 50.  Habitat: The sum of environmental condition in a specific place that is occu-

pied by a plant or plant community wherein exchanges occur between the 

plants and the resources they utilize.

 51.  In situ conservation: Conservation of biodiversity within their natural ecosys-

tems and/or habitats of a species where they have originated and evolved 


 52.  In situ/on-farm conservation: Conservation of crop/cultivated species genetic 

diversity in the form of varieties, on farm or in the agroecology where they have 

developed their distinctive features.

 53.  Introgression: The incorporation of genes of one species (donor) into the gene 

pool of another species (recipient) by hybridization and repeated backcrossing 

with recipient species. By this process, the recipient species become more var-

iable, displaying certain characters of donor species.

 54.  Landraces: Cultigens that are highly heterogeneous, but with enough charac-

teristics in common to permit their recognition as group.

 55.  Molecular biosystematics: Study using simple molecular biological 

approaches to sample and analyze variation at biochemical and molecular 

DNAs level.

 56.  National park: A large protected area used for biodiversity conservation pur-

poses. Often it is a reserve of natural, seminatural, or developed land.

 57.  Native species: A species, which is a part of the original flora of the area.

 58.  Natural reserves: A large protected area of importance for wildlife, flora, 

fauna, or geological interest reserved and managed for conservation and 


 59.  Naturalized wild species: Refers to exotic species, introduced centuries/mil-

lenniums back and got acclimatize to the extent to appear indigenous and have 

even evolved new species, subspecies, and botanical varieties.

 60.  Orthodox taxonomy: It deals with classification and naming of organisms and 

the convenient tabulation and grouping based on morphological similarities and 

dissimilarities, to indicate natural relationships.

 61.  Passport data: It refers to the information documentation on a germplasm col-

lection, such as location, physical/climatic conditions provenance data dealing 

with genetic background/pedigree information, reaction to prevailing stresses 

and threat, etc.



 62.  Phylogeny: The developmental and evolutionary history of group of organisms 

or species or genus.

 63.  Phytoremediation: It refers to the use of living green plants for in situ removal, 

degradation, or containment of contaminants in soils, sludges, sediments, sur-

face water, and groundwater.

 64.  Plant genetic resources: Genetic material of plants, including modern culti-

vars, landraces, and wild relatives of crop plants, of value as a genetic resource 

for present and future generations of breeders to facilitate genetic 


 65.  Population: A group of individuals belonging to different biotypes. The geno-

typically heterogenous population represents the basic evolutionary unit (gene 

pool) from which new types may arise through mutation, genetic recombina-

tion under the influence of natural pressure resulting selection/differentiation.

 66.  PPV & FR Act: The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act 

passed in 2001 to establish an effective system for protection of plant varieties 

and the rights of the farmers and plant breeders and to encourage development 

of new varieties of plants.

 67.  Race: An intraspecific category, primarily a population or aggregate of popula-

tions with recognizable characteristics.

 68.  Recombinant DNA technology: Refers to the technology that uses enzymes to 

cut and paste DNA sequences of interest together from two different species. 

The recombined DNA sequence is inserted into a host organism to produce 

genetically modified (GM) organism with new genetic combinations that are of 

value to science, medicine, agriculture, and industry.

 69.  Red Data Book: The book contains list/inventory of species whose continued 

existence is threatened.

 70.  Renewable bioenergy: Plant biomass, which has stored solar energy in the 

form of chemical energy/organic material and can produce energy in the form 

of biofuel.

 71.  Sampling strategies: Sampling methods that are followed during germplasm 

collection with primary emphasis to capture or sample the available genetic 


 72.  Selection: The choice of certain individuals based on distinctiveness for the 

propagation/conservation and use from a mixed population where individuals 

vary in their characters. The variation is produced from nonrandom differential 

reproduction, which leads to individuals of different genotypes being repre-

sented unequally by their progeny in latter generations of a population of 

self-propagating units. Such individuals may not survive natural selection.

 73.  Semi-Arid region: A region with by highly variable and unpredictable rainfall, 

which is below potential evapotranspiration. Climatic conditions characterized 

it to be a region with intermediate climates between desert and humid regions. 

Dominated by short or scrubby vegetation of either grasses or shrubs.

 74.  Species diversity: Refers to the number of species represented in each com-

munity and to the evenness of species’ abundances.



 75.  Species endemism: Plant species associated with a region. By extension, this 

term is used to refer to species which are found only in that region.

 76.  Species: A group of potentially interbreeding natural populations which nor-

mally are reproductively isolated from other such groups and/or show common 


 77.  Subspecies: A population of some biotype providing regional appearance/com-

position/differentiation of a species in relation to physical, chemical, genetic, 

and biological aspects.

 78.  Taxon: Taxonomic unit of any rank.

 79.  Taxonomic characters: Any observable feature of the plant that can be used 

for comparison and grouping/classification.

 80.  Taxonomy: A branch of biology engaged in the classification of organisms, 

especially according to their natural relationships. It covers the laws of and 

principles of such classification.

 81.  The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and 

Agriculture (ITPGRFA): The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources 

for Food and Agriculture, popularly known as the International Seed Treaty, is 

a comprehensive international agreement in harmony with Convention on 

Biological Diversity, which aims at guaranteeing food security through the con-

servation, exchange and sustainable use of the world’s plant genetic resources 

for food and agriculture, as well as the fair and equitable benefit sharing arising 

from its use. It implements a Multilateral System of access and benefit sharing, 

among those countries that ratify the treaty, for a list of 64 foods and forage 

crops (the genera and species are listed in Annex 1 to the Treaty).

 82.  Threatened species: Species categorized into various levels of threats as per 

IUCN categories are listed below:

 (a)  Extinct (EX): A taxon is extinct when there is no reasonable doubt that the 

last individual has died. As indicated by exhaustive surveys.

 (b)  Extinct in the Wild (EW): A taxon is extinct in the wild when it is known 

only to survive in cultivation, in captivity, or as a naturalized population (or 

populations) well outside the past range. As indicated by exhaustive 


 (c)  Critically Endangered (CR): A taxon is critically endangered when the best 

available evidence by quantitative analysis indicates a reduction in the 

number of mature individual’s due to continued decline, fluctuation or frag-

mentation of populations, and extent of occurrence. Thereby facing an 

extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

 (d)  Endangered (EN): A taxon is endangered when the best available evidence 

indicates a species facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild because 

of either/or due to continued decline, fluctuation or fragmentation of popu-

lations, and extent of occurrence.

 (e)  Vulnerable (VU): A taxon is vulnerable when the best available evidence 

indicates that it is vulnerable, because of either continued decline, fluctua-

tion, or fragmentation of populations and extent of occurrence.



 (f)  Near Threatened (NT): A taxon is near threatened when it does not qualify 

for critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable now but is close to 

qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near 


 (g)  Least Concern (LC): A taxon is least concern when on evaluation, it does 

not qualify for critically endangered, endangered, vulnerable, or near 

threatened and abundantly available.

 (h)  Data Deficient (DD): A taxon is data deficient when available information 

is inadequate to make a direct, or indirect, assessment on risk to its distri-

bution and/or population status.

 83.  Trans-domestication: The hypothesis, as per which a wild plant species 

brought from an exotic destination, is domesticated elsewhere in a foreign land/


 84.  Variation: Divergence in the characteristics of an organism caused by the envi-

ronment or by differences in its genetic constitution. The occurrence of pheno-

typic differences between individuals due to heritable differences (traceable 

genotypic differences) or due to differences in external conditions (phenotypic 

and non-heritable).

 85.  Variety: A population of some biotype forming local appearance/composition 

of a species in relation to a specific physical, chemical, genetic, and biological 


 86.  Weed: A volunteer plant which is adapted to disturbed or open habitats, it may 

be an ability to take advantage of human disturbances.

 87.  Wide hybridization: A term generally used to designate hybridization between 

widely diverse organism/plants (distinct species from same genera or different) 

to generate new genetic combinations from where desired recombinants can be 


 88.  Wild and weedy relative of crop/cultivated plants: The uncultivated species 

that are genetically related to a crop species, including the progenitors from 

same genera, as well as cross- compatible wild species from the same or other 

closely related genera.

 89.  Wildlife sanctuaries: A wildlife refuge, which is a naturally occurring sanctu-

ary providing protection for a species from competition and other threats.



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