Landraces are key elements of agricultural biodiversity that have long been considered a source of useful traits. Their importance goes beyond subsistence agriculture and the essential need to preserve genetic diversity, because landraces are farmer-developed populations that are often adapted to environmental conditions of significance to tackle environmental concerns. It is therefore increasingly important to identify adaptive traits in crop landraces and understand their molecular basis. This knowledge is potentially useful for promoting more sustainable agricultural techniques, reducing the environmental impact of high-input cropping systems, and diminishing the vulnerability of agriculture to global climate change. In this review, we present an overview of the opportunities and limitations offered by landraces’ genomics. We discuss how rapid advances in DNA sequencing techniques, plant phenotyping, and recombinant DNA-based biotechnology encourage both the identification and the validation of the genomic signature of local adaptation in crop landraces. The integration of ‘omics’ sciences, molecular population genetics, and field studies can provide information inaccessible with earlier technological tools. Although empirical knowledge on the genetic and genomic basis of local adaptation is still fragmented, it is predicted that genomic scans for adaptation will unlock an intraspecific molecular diversity that may be different from that of modern varieties.
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