Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Icrisat germplasm at Svalbard Global Seed Vault


February 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 25: The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics has joined the group of international organisations that will deposit seeds of germplasm of mandate crops at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, to be inaugurated on Tuesday.
According to Dr William Dar, director-general of ICRISAT, the international initiative is to store the seeds of agricultural crops from across the world in a specially created seed vault. The Svalbard archipelago is half way between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole.
Located in a remote, yet accessible location within a mountain under permafrost (permanently frozen layer) conditions, the Svalbard Seed Vault has a natural temperature of minus 6 degree centigrade. The vault is further cooled to minus 18°C and is designed to provide ultimate secure protection against catastrophes to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.
Dr William Dar said ICRISAT's participation in the duplicate conservation of seeds in the vault would add a special significance to the project by giving increased protection to global agriculture from climate change.
The seeds of germplasm that will be transferred by ICRISAT are those of hardy dryland crops that can withstand climate change when it happens. These are the seeds of sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeon pea,groundnut and six small millets.
Though a global disaster may or may not happen, seeds stored in gene banks are routinely used to re-start agriculture in areas affected by natural disasters and civil strife. For instance, sorghum germplasm lost during civil wars in Ethiopia and Rwanda was replenished from the collection stored in the ICRISAT gene bank.
ICRISAT repatriated germplasm to several countries: Botswana (sorghum), Iran (chickpea), Nepal (chickpea), Kenya (pigeon pea), Sudan (sorghum), Zambia (sorghum, pearl millet, pigeon pea, groundnut and finger millet), and India (all crops).
ICRISAT will deposit seeds of 20,000 germplasm accessions in the first instalment this year, which will be the first year of the 5-year schedule during which the Institute will transfer about 110,000 germplasm accessions.
ICRISAT holds 1,18,882 accessions of various crops, along with their wild relatives, representing 144 countries.

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