Plant genetic resources and genebank management training course held for Asia and Africa

Dr Upadhyaya, Ms J Kane-Potaka and Dr R Varshney at the opening program of the training course. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Representatives from 15 genebanks across Africa and Asia have participated in a knowledge sharing course on the latest technologies and approaches in genetic material conservation and use.

The first ever of its kind at ICRISAT Patancheru, the week-long training program on “Plant Genetic Resources and Genebank Management” was successfully held on 7-12 October. The training course focused on efficient conservation of germplasm in the genebank, promoting use of genetic resources in crop improvement programs, awareness on how to access plant genetic resources in view of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), and restriction on movement of germplasm across geographical boundaries. Seventeen participants from nine countries (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam) and from four ICRISAT regional locations (Niamey, Nairobi, Bulawayo, and Lilongwe) attended the course.

In his welcome message, Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Grain Legumes, emphasized on the importance of plant genetic resources as building blocks for crop improvement program, and the use of applied genomic tools to facilitate germplasm characterization to identify beneficial alleles for use in crop breeding. Dr Hari Upadhyaya, Head, ICRISAT Genebank, provided details of the training program and the principles and practices for germplasm and genebank management.

Delivering the inaugural address on behalf of Director General William D. Dar, Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, Director, Strategic Marketing and Communication, stressed on the need for Inclusive Market-Oriented Development (IMOD) approach noting that although genebanks are a long way from the markets they are at the start of the value chain and their efforts make a difference to what options are available later for satisfying market demands. The ICRISAT genebank, she added, has the largest collection of chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, sorghum and pearl millet, and six other small millets, and operates at international standards. She emphasized the role of genebanks not just for ’conserving’ the priceless genetic resources but for playing a key role in ensuring the ‘use’ by present and future generations in enhancing food and nutritional security.

The course included lectures, hands on training, and field/laboratory visit to various facilities at the ICRISAT headquarters and to the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) Regional Station at Rajendranagar, Hyderabad. The trainees were exposed to knowledge on, among others, management of genetic resources (assembly, conservation, regeneration, characterization, evaluation, documentation and data information retrieval); genebank maintenance, various storage practices adapted at genebanks for conservation of genetic resources; and techniques and procedures for screening germplasm for abiotic and biotic stresses. All these are very critical for genetic resource specialists to learn to efficiently and cost-effectively manage large collections in genebanks, and provide genetically diverse and agronomically beneficial germplasm for use in crop breeding.

The participants expressed satisfaction on the course contents and activities, the overall usefulness of the course to their programs, and the learning opportunities at ICRISAT.

Participants of the training course. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT

Source: ICRISAT Happenings