Imagine a comprehensive sampling of every fruit, nut and other crop that is or has ever been grown in California packed into a concentrated and carefully protected site. This seemingly fictional prospect is actually a reality at the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Clonal Germplasm Repository for Tree Fruit, Nut Crops and Grapes – a 70-acre facility in Davis, California that contains two each of hundreds of these species grown in California’s past or present agriculture industry.
Why would such a facility exist? According to Modern Farmer, these crops can’t be reproduced from seeds, and instead need to be replicated via cloning through the planting of a live, healthy cutting from a plant. And as climate change increasingly rears its ugly head in the form of high temperatures, droughts, floods and pestilence, the effects on California’s $17.2 billion fruit and nut industry and the crops that support it are becoming painfully clear. According to a 2009 UC Davis study, “(a)reas . . . for growing walnuts, pistachios, peaches, apricots, plums and cherries are likely to almost completely disappear by the end of the 21st century.”
Since California fruit and nuts not only add up to a lot of dollars, but account for more than half the nation’s total production, that means a big hit to food security in North America. So having a facility like the repository that preserves current crops and distributes cuttings to anyone who asks for them makes for an invaluable resource. What’s more, the facility banks crops that have a whole host of genetic traits that will be important as the weather of the future quickly becomes the present – like drought, heat and disease resistance.