Finger millet is one of six major ICRISAT mandate crops, and a large number of varieties are grown each year for characterization, seed production and in different research projects. From the left LLR, ICRISAT gene bank manager Vania Azevedo, Senior scientist M. Vetriventhan and Scientific officer P. Naresh.
“We see many fields of common interest among the genebanks. I am also very pleased that both institutions are planning to deposit more seeds in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the near future” said Lise Lykke Steeffensen, NordGen director and Secretary of the International of the Advisory Panel for the Svalbard Global Seed.
“Both institutes have well maintained collections and well developed methods and advanced equipment. Experience within in vitro conservation, and in particular knowledge about crops as pea, medicinal and aromatic plants is in particular of interest to NordGen, and we look forward to exchange knowledge in these fields.” she said.
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) with the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) and the national plant genebank is located in the very center of Dehli, as a green lounge in this huge city. By having around 438,000 seed accessions well conserved in -18 degrees cold store in the institute basement, NBPGR is one of the most important national gene banks in the world.
“Cooling the seed store costs us a fortune” said NBPGR director Dr Kuldeep Singh. “But we are happy to see that out country prioritize to take good care of these resources.”
As many tropical and subtropical crops do not have orthodox seeds that can be conserved as frozen seeds, NBPGR also has significant numbers of accessions conserved in-vitro and in cryo tanks. By having close to 13000 accessions of a broad range of crops cryo conserved, NBPGR might have the largest cryo plant gene bank in the world.
International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has a huge campus in Patancheru outside Hyderabad, containing fields for trials and living gene bank collections, offices, labs and nice accommodation for guests, and even five artificial lakes attracting about 200 species of birds and dedicated bird watchers.
India’s only Center of Excellence in Genomics (CEG) is located at ICRISAT. The Centre has a broad range of ongoing projects within genomics and molecular breeding in ICRISAT mandate crops. CEG also provides sequencing and informatics services and capacity building, in particular towards national agricultural research centers (NARS), also in Africa where ICRISAT is heavily engaged through sub-units several African countires.
Both NBPGR and ICRISAT have signed the agreement for depositing seeds in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. While ICRISAT is close to securing all conserved seeds with copies in the Seed Vault, NBPGR is just in the beginning of this process.
“About 26000 NBPGR accessions are already in the Multilateral System of the Plant Treaty, and we hope to start shipping significant numbers of these accessions already next year”, NBPGR director Singh said.
ICRISAT has already deposited more than one hundred thousand seed samples in the Seed Vault, which makes this CGIAR center one of the largest depositors of seeds to the Seed Vault. In addition to depositing ordinary back-up samples, ICRISAT has deposited seed samples for longevity testing in the Seed Vault.
“And we would want to cooperate with NordGen and other depositor gene banks in a broader project investigating longevity of seeds”, said ICRISAT Seed bank manager Dr Vania Azevedo, while showing NordGen around in the medium term and long term seed stores.
“We quite recently installed solar panels on the roof of the office and gene bank building, and this save about 70% of the electricity costs”, she explains. “The installation cost will be paid back within 4-5 years”.
ICRISAT is in particular focusing on six important mandate crops; sorghum, pearl millet, finger millet, chick pea, pigeon pea and ground nuts. Assistant Director General Dr. Joanna Kane-Potaka informed about the ICRISAT Smart Food initiative emphasizing sorghum and millets under the slogan Smart for you (as a consumer), smart for the planet and smart for the farmer.
“These species have so many advantages compared to other more industrial crops”, she said, “and we try to encourage farmers in the tropics to grow these crops, and at the same time to stimulate the whole cultivation and market chain, from availability of seeds to new products and marketing of these”.