The majority of the germplasm collections include crops with a high economic value like cereals, legumes, fruits and forage species. However, is rare the presence of species with neutraceutical, therapeutic or medical applications, aromatic plants, ornamental and spice producing plants in public collections. The limited genetic variation suspected for this sterile crop, exclusively propagated vegetatively and subject of rapid genetic erosion in the last century, would have required the creation of a collection of landraces, ecotypes or simply accessions of C. sativus L. However, no germplasm collection of saffron in Europe neither in the world has been created. This project, although already late, tries to be a first but significant step to preserve, evaluate and use the genetic resources of this ancient crop. The creation of this collection will contribute not only to slow down the intense genetic erosion but also will make available a wide variety of Crocus genotypes of potential carriers of interesting genes for plant breeders, e.g. resistance to biotic or abiotic stresses, reserve accumulation, biosynthesis of secondary metabolites, etc.

In order to ensure the future of saffron crop it is necessary to improve cultivation techniques, plant material, quality evaluation methods, and to develop a wide range of saffron uses particularly those related to human well-being. The worldwide increase in utilization of saffron as natural product requires new biological and economical development, and co-operative programs on technological and medicinal studies. Production and processing of ‘medicinal' and aromatic plants should be one of the successful branches of horticulture in the future. To fulfil these requirements, however, production systems need to be modernised and high quality material must be provided to farmers (1). The creation of a bank of germplasm in Crocuses could help in that purpose.

(1) Fernández, J.A. Biology, biotechnology and biomedicine of saffron. Recent. Res. Devel. Plant Sci., 2: 127-159.