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Bioscience in brief
Plant genetics and crop breeding
What is a gene bank?
Conserving the genetic diversity of our crops, landraces and related wild species is essential to ensure future plant breeders can access this variation, especially in view of increased food demand by a growing world population and climate change.
Gene banks are repositories where biological material is collected, stored, catalogued and made available for redistribution.
The main role of plant gene banks is to preserve genetic diversity, in the form of seeds or cuttings in the case of plants reproduced vegetatively, and subsequently make this material, together with associated information, available for future use in research and plant breeding.
Gene banks are sometimes also referred to as an ex-situ conservation facility (because biological materials are conserved outside their natural habitat).
B4FA photo: seed collection at AVRC in Arusha, Tanzania
Maize seed samples, CIMMYT germplasm bank
Shelves filled with maize seed samples make up the maize active collection in the Wellhausen-Anderson Plant Genetic Resources Center.. Read More
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a seedbank located in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago in Norway. Read More
Seeds are first dried (to prevent germination during storage) and kept at low temperatures to increase longevity.
An important part of the work at gene banks is to ensure the seed collection remains alive: seeds need to be periodically checked for viability and the material regenerated to replenish the collection with fresh seed and planting materials.
Seed banks can be set up at the community, national and international level.
Because the crops we rely for food are grown in parts of the world distant to the centres of their domestication, the sharing of genetic material across national borders for research and plant breeding is essential.
Seed collection of Jogimara, Dhading, Nepal community seed bank… Read More.
Evaluation of sweet potato crop collection
Evaluation of crop collections- genebank procedures
Map of the world showing the centres of domestication for important crops