Plant genetic resources genebanks are the repositories of the world’s huge diversity of crop varieties and their wild relatives. They ensure that the varieties and landraces of the crops and their wild relatives that underpin our food supply are adequately collected, stored, and maintained in the long term and are made available and distributed for use by farmers, plant breeders and researchers.
Genebanks conserve genetic resources. The most fundamental activity in a genebank is to treat a new sample in a way that will prolong its viability as long as possible while ensuring its genetic integrity. The samples (or accessions as they are called) are monitored to ensure that they are not losing viability. A cornerstone of genebank operations is the reproduction—called regeneration—of its plant material. Plant samples must periodically be grown out, regenerated, and new seed harvested because, even under the best of conservation conditions, samples will eventually die.
However, genebanks are not built just to conserve genetic resources; they are intended to ensure that these resources are adequately collected and used, whether it is in farmers’ fields, breeding programmes or in research institutions. This means making sure the collections are properly characterized and documented; and that the documentation is available to those who need it. The information systems used by genebanks are becoming increasingly important tools for researchers and breeders seeking data on the distribution of crops and their wild relatives.
Finally, genebanks must be able to deliver healthy samples to the farmers, breeders and researchers.
There are different kinds of genebanks.The most common are:
- Seed banks.
- Field genebanks.
- In vitro – slow growth.
- Vegetative banks.
- DNA banks.
In addition, other specific parts of the plant, such as pollen and leaves, are now being conserved and these collections can also be referred to as genebank or germplasm collections.
Genebank procedures overview
- After Vavilov: Collecting germplasm in the 21st century
- Chapter 1. A brief history of plant germplasm collecting
- Chapter 2: Legal issues in plant germplasm collecting
- Chapter 3. An introduction to plant germplasm exploration and collecting: planning, methods and procedures, follow-up
- Chapter 4: Assessing the threat of genetic erosion
- Chapter 5: Basic sampling strategies: theory and practice
- Chapter 6: Strategies for the collecting of wild species
- Chapter 7: Classifications of infraspecific variation in crop plants
- Chapter 8: Sources of information on existing germplasm collections
- Chapter 10: Published sources of information on wild plant species
- Chapter 11: Aids to taxonomic identification
- Chapter 13: Published information resources for plant germplasm collectors
- Chapter 14: Ecogeographic surveys
- Chapter 15/16: Mapping the ecogeographic distribution of biodiversity and GIS tools for plant germplasm collectors
- Chapter 17: Plant health and germplasm collectors
- Chapter 18: Collecting plant genetic resources and documenting associated indigenous knowledge in the field: a participatory approach
- Chapter 19: Collecting and recording data in the field: media for data recording
- Chapter 20: Collecting and handling seeds in the field
- Chapter 21: Collecting vegetatively propagated crops (especially roots and tubers)
- Chapter 22: Collecting vegetative material of forage grasses and legumes
- Chapter 23: Collecting woody perennials
- Chapter 24: Collecting in vitro for genetic resources conservation
- Chapter 25: Collecting pollen for genetic resources conservation
- Chapter 26: Collecting symbiotic bacteria and fungi
- Chapter 27: Collecting herbarium vouchers
- Chapter 28: Processing of germplasm, associated material and data
- Chapter 40: Collecting DNA for conservation
- Chapter 41: Gap analysis: A tool for genetic conservation
- Chapter 42: Gap analysis: A tool for genetic conservation
- Safety duplication
- Phytosanitary Operations
Page compiled by: Bioversity International/ILRI, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Alexandra Jorge); ILRI, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Jean Hanson) including information extracted from: Rao NK, Hanson J, Dulloo ME, Ghosh K, Nowel D and Larinde M. 2006. Manual of seed handling in genebanks. Handbooks for Genebanks No. 8. Bioversity International, Rome, Italy. 147pp.