ICRISAT’s genebank begins massive safekeeping exercise
ICRISAT’s genebank has begun sending copies of its large germplasm collection to the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) as a backup, commonly referred to as first-level safety duplication. The first batch of 20,000 accessions of both sorghum and pearl millet was sent on 27 December.
“I am pleased to note that this timely exercise has started with a large number of sorghum and millet accessions,” said Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director General, ICRISAT. “The genebank has already safety duplicated more than 90% of its collections in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.”
ICRISAT’s genebank houses more than 129,000 accessions and has the world’s largest collections of pearl millet, sorghum, groundnut, chickpea, pigeonpea and small millets.
“ICRISAT’s genebank is a treasure trove of traits and has helped breeders across the world improve both productivity and resilience of dryland crops. That apart, the genebank has helped restore many traditional varieties, also called landraces,” said Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director-Accelerated Crop Improvement at ICRISAT, to underscore the importance of conservation and duplication of germplasm resources.
Multi-level duplications of genebanks are essential in order to effectively safeguard biodiversity, ensure easy means of restoration when needed and eventually ensure the food security of our future generations, explained Dr Kuldeep Singh, Head of the genebank at ICRISAT. Multi-level duplications are mandated by the Crop Trust, which supports and funds CGIAR genebanks through the Genebank Platform. Many genebanks across the world duplicate their germplasm in other genebanks.
“In the first batch, we sent 15,000 accessions of sorghum and 5,000 accessions of pearl millet. The second batch is being prepared to be send to IITA by end of January next year,” Dr Singh informed.
Dr Ovais Peerzada, Manager at the genebank’s seed lab, detailed the extensive process behind preparing accessions for duplication. “Every accession sent in the first batch weighed 25 grams. The seeds had a germination percentage of over 90% and were packed in vacuum-sealed aluminum pouches to ensure they can be put to use even after many years of conservation in extremely low temperature. The process of preparing the shipment began more than two months ago and involved drying seeds to ensure the right moisture level, tests for germination, phytosanitary checks, meticulous packing and labeling,” he said.