Agricultural biodiversity includes diversity of genetic resources (varieties, breeds) and species used for food, feed, fiber, fuel and pharmaceuticals. It also includes the diversity of non-harvested species that support production (soil micro-organisms, predators and pollinators) and those that are found in a larger environment that support the ecosystems (agricultural, pastoral, forest and aquatic) and participate in their diversity.
The Convention on Biological Diversity defines, in its Article 2, the term "genetic resources" as "genetic material - that is to say, the material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units heredity - of actual or potential value ".
They are part of the biological resources that the CBD defines genetic resources, organisms or parts thereof, populations, or any other biotic component of ecosystems with actual or potential, or value for humanity.
Specifically, genetic resources thus cover the following categories:
- For animals: wild populations, traditional or primary, standardized breeds or lines selected strains,
- For plants: the ancient and modern varieties, local populations, wild or related forms,
- For micro-organisms strains, isolates, populations and communities.
Genetic resources form with ecosystems and species, three levels of biodiversity.
The International Treaty of FAO agro-biodiversity (2001), contains in Article 2 an identical definition; However, this definition is limited to plant and animal genetic resources for food and agriculture, so a special category of genetic resources.
For a cultivated plant, genetic resources it presents consist of all varieties and wild relatives. Genetic resources of cultivated plants in their diversity, the reservoir essential for crop improvement to perfect adaptation to environmental changes, the improvement of production and other unpredictable future human needs (production of new cultivars and breeds; genetic adaptability that is used to mitigate potentially adverse effects of economic and environmental changes). They therefore constitute the biological basis of world food security.
Cropland, represent about 5 million hectares. Currently the main crops are cereals (1.5 million hectars), Forage (320000 hectars), and grain legumes (80000 hectars), olive (1,8 millions hectars), the date palm (40,000 hectars), citrus (22,000 hectars a), potatoes (24,000 hectars), tomato (23000 hectares)…
Tunisia is a secondary center of diversification of many agricultural crops such as durum wheat or barley, watermelon, melon, almond, apricot, pomegranate, date palm, olive, fig... For these species, several varieties are grown or were during the 20th century. These varieties and accessions have been extensively studied in terms of genetic diversity and in terms of agronomic performance. Some are recovered, either by using either as parents in breeding programs or else by their registration in catalogs of varieties for commercialization.
The area of animal production weighs 35% of the total agricultural production. The herds of cattle are about 450,000 females, sheep and goats nearly 4.5 million females. Rabbits 90000 females. The area of the poultry production is very important with an annual production of around 130,000 tonnes per year and 1535 million eggs.
The intensive livestock breeds and semi-intensive are largely introduced breeds (Holstein, Charolais, Pius Black Blonde Aquitaine, Friesian, Brown Normand,). There are also some local cattle breeds such as the Brown Atlas.
The sector of production of sheep participates at 48% in the production of red meat estimated at 120,000 tons. There are important Tunisian breeds like the Black race Thibar or Barbarine race. Some of these breeds are currently under study in order to assign the AOC status.
Added to this is the extensive farming of camels (about 80,000 heads) of local breeds and about 150,000 horses which a local breed: the pony Mogod.