Four hundred and twenty-seven landraces belonging to different plant species (forages, cereals, pulses, garden crops and fruit trees) were found on-farm in central Italy during exploration and collecting missions carried out since 1981. Open field crops are mostly grown under modern agricultural techniques by relatively young farmers on quite large farms for Italian standards. Garden crops are mostly grown by elderly farmers, running small farms or home gardens and using traditional farming systems which include the use of mechanical tools for soil preparation and occasionally the use of chemical fertilisers. There is no unique situation in on-farm conservation and management in the investigated area: the main factors involved appear to be a fragmented habitat and the presence of relatively elderly farmers. Most landraces are directly used by farmers' families, but a part is sold at local and wider markets. The main reasons why these landraces have been maintained on-farm are: their resistance/good productivity under difficult or harsh climatic conditions, traditional reasons or organoleptic peculiarities, which make them highly valued and expensive on the local and city markets and/or simply because they are appreciated by the families. Three example cases of effective on-farm conservation are presented. Social problems seem to be the main cause of genetic erosion. Perspectives and constraints to on-farm conservation and management are briefly discussed.
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