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National Agriculture Genetic Resources Center (Genebank)

Introduction

Diverse genetic resources are the foundation for sustainable development of agriculture. Global food security always relies on intelligent use of crop genetic resources which contain the essential building blocks that are critical to food security. Their availability is a fundamental requirement for achieving further productivity increase and higher nutritional values though plant breeding. For this, it is crucial to conserve the existing crop diversity and to allow agricultural researchers, breeders and farmers access to it.

Three agro-ecological zones of Nepal (Tarai, Mid Hill and High Hill) experience a wide range of climate from tropical to temperate and arctic. The variation is mainly attributed to immense changes in elevation with the greatest range of altitude on Earth, from 60 to 8848 masl. Out of about 410 angiosperm families in the world, 203 (almost 50%) are represented in Nepal. The Biodiversity Profiles Project (1995) ranked Nepal as having the tenth richest flowering plant diversity in Asia. On a world scale, Nepal is placed in 31st. More than 500 species of edible genetic resources are available, of which nearly 200 species are under cultivation (Upadhyay and Joshi 2003).
  
About half of the average global production increase in cereals that were achieved under the Green Revolution was attributable to plant breeding utilizing plant genetic resources. The role of crop diversity and plant breeding will become even more important in the near future for achieving food security in a sustainable way. Plant genetic resources that are conserved in the Genebank can be used for:

  • Safe conservation for future use
  • Direct use for agricultural production
  • Conservation of diversity in environment
  • Scientific use for experimental materials
  • Genetic enhancement (pre-breeding)
  • Breeding materials for the sustainable development

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), more than 75% of global crop diversity has disappeared irrevocably over the 20th century (1900 to 2000). A large number of wild relatives of important food crops are also likely to disappear over the next decades due to climate change. Realizing the significance of agricultural genetic resources in national development, the Government of Nepal and Nepal Agricultural Research Council (NARC) has established the National Agriculture Genetic Resources Center (Genebank) in 2010 for conservation and utilization of agro-biodiversity. 

A total of 2.4 ha is allocated for this Center and additional one ha is available for field experiment near the center. Out of 2.4 ha, Genebank building has occupied 0.092 ha, 0.26 ha is allocated for Field Genebank and 0.83 ha for regeneration, multiplication, characterization, evaluation and post quarantine activities. Residential building (for curators) is in about 0.15 ha. Other existing supplementary mechanisms for conserving agro-biodiversity in Nepal are i. Ritual practices of Hindu (Rudrakshya, Tulsi, Jau, etc), ii. Culturally protected areas (temple and other religious places), iii. Government’s protected areas, iv. National parks, leasehold, community and private forests, v. Rangeland and wetland management system, vi. Farmers seed network system and vii. Protection of some plant species.

Representative Percentage of Total Plant Species of the World in Nepal

History

1937

Start of plant exploration mission undertaken by international organizations

1940

First collection and evaluation of indigenous plants by the then His Majesty's Government

1972

Establishment of Vegetable Development Division with emphasis for collections

1984

Establishment of Plant Genetic Resource Section in Agriculture Botany Division (ABD) for exploration, collection and conservation

1986

Establishment of medium term ex-situ conservation at ABD

1994

First community seed bank in Dalchoki, Lalitpur

2003

Establishment of 2nd community seed bank in Kachorwa, Bara

2010

Establishment of National Genebank (NAGRC) with medium term storage

2012

Initiation of Field Genebank, Community Field Genebank and Household Genebank

2013

Initiation of Tissue Bank and DNA Bank

2014

Creation of long term storage facility (Base Collection Room)

Mission

Conservation and utilization of all kinds of agricultural genetic resources for food security, livelihood and economic growth.

Objectives

  • To explore, collect and conserve agricultural genetic resources for promosing sustainable use.
  • To manage and handle the agricultural genetic resources scientifically in the country according to the rules and regulations of genetic resources movement.
  • To identify the endangered, rare and unique genetic resources and give emphasis to conserve them.
  • To create a single entry point to get access to AGR and associated data.
  • To locate the center of diversity of all economical crop species in the country.
  • To characterize including DNA finger printing and evaluate genetic resources and avail the resources to researchers, academicians, farmers, entrepreneurs and related stakeholders.
  • To screen genetic resources and identify markers associated with particular traits and develop elite lines through pre-breeding.
  • To manage database associated with each accession including passport, characterization, evaluation and traditional knowledge.ase associated with each accession including passport, characterization, evaluation and traditional knowledge.

Major Contribution

Agricultural plant genetic resources (APGR) activities were started back in 1984 in the Agriculture Botany Division focusing on exploration, collection, characterization, utilization, regeneration and documentation. After the establishment of National Agriculture Genetic Resources Center (Genebank) in 2010 at Khumaltar, the major contributions of the center are:

  • Made access of diverse genetic resources to plant breeders, students, researchers and farmers.
  • Functionalized seed bank, tissue bank, DNA bank, field genebank and community genebank (seed and field genebank).
  • Systematized the management of accessions through Excel database.
  • Characterized and identified elites lines of different crops.
  • Developed good practices of on-farm conservation.
  • Contributed to development of Agrobiodiversity Policy 2007 (revised 2014) and NBSAP.
  • Collaborated with national and international organizations for conserving and enhancing agricultural plant genetic resources.
  • Conserved potato plantlets in-vitro.
  • Genotyped accessions of different crop species and provided molecular lab facilities for genetic diversity study to other organizations
  • Explored and collected > 9000 accessions of about 100 crop species from all 75 districts of the country.
  • Conserved 9000 accessions of different crop species in medium-term and long-term storages.
  • 1500 accessions of 7 crops safety duplicated in different CGIAR genebanks.

Facilities for Conservation, Research and Utilization of APGRin the Genebank

Long Term Storage: Freezer store room (called Base Collection Room, BCR) with -20oC for storing about 1,00,000 accessions for 50-100 years.
Medium Term Storage: Cold store room (called Active Collection Room, ACR) with 4-10oC and 35-45% RH for storing about 50,000 accessions for 10-15 years.
Short Term Storage: Ambient condition room for storing one season of recalcitrant and vegetatively propagated APGR.
Field Genebank: Field plots within Khumaltar,at different NARC stations,and along the road and around the office buildings and premises.
In-vitro Culture Lab and Tissue Bank: Facility for tissue culture and in-vitro cold storage.
Molecular Research Lab and DNA Bank: Facility for DNA works and conservation eg genotyping, genetic diversity assessing, identification (DNA fingerprinting, MAS), genes mapping and tagging.
Seed Processing and Testing Lab: Facilities for seed cleaning, health testing, viability testing, drying and characterizing.
Experimental Plot: Fields for display blocks, regeneration, multiplication, characterization, evaluation and pre-breeding.
Database Management: Facilities for passport, management, characterization, evaluation, pre-breeding, genotyping and utilization data.

Total Crops Accessions Conserved Genebank

Germplasm management system in NAGRC

Conservation Strategies

Genebank has adopted the following conservation strategies, which are only possible in collaboration with all stakeholders for exploration and collection, regeneration, multiplication, characterization and evaluation, and safety duplication.

    1. Ex-situ conservation
        1. Seed Conservation as base and active collections (Seed bank)
        2. In-vitro Conservation (cold storage and cryopreservation) (Tissue bank)
        3. DNA bank
        4. Field Genebank
    2. On-farm Conservation
    3. In-situ Conservation

Ex-Situ Conservation (Seed Bank) for Orthodox Seeds
Base collections (original collections): Collections are stored at -18oC with a relative humidity of 40% for 50 to 100 years. Seed moisture is lowered to 3 to 7% depending on crop species. Also called long term storage system.  Size of accession is about 2000 seeds for self-pollinated crops and 4000 seeds for cross-pollinated crop species. 
Active collections (working or core collections): Collections are stored at 5 to 10oC with a RH 30 to 40% for 5 to 15 years. Also called short term storage system and used to characterize, evaluate, multiply and distribute. Accessions size is about 4000 seeds for self-pollinated crops and 8000 for cross pollinated.

Field Genebank
Essential for those crop species having recalcitrant seeds and vegetatively propagated and apomictic crop species for conservation, characterization, evaluation and utilization. Government’s farm, around the road and office buildings, community farms, botanical garden, culturally protected and heritage sites are suitable for Field Genebank.


In-Vitro Conservation (Tissue Bank)
Very effective for conserving those crop species, which either produce recalcitrant seeds or does not produce any seeds. Can conserve many samples in small areas and conserved materials develop very slowly mainly due to nutrient depletion and low temperature. Such type of materials can be multiplied rapidly and can easily be kept free from viruses, insect parasites, fungi or bacteria. Cultures can be kept in test tubes on nutrient medium for indefinite periods of time by transferring at regular interval.


On-Farm Conservation
It is a dynamic conservation of local and important crop varieties. Genebank has been supporting on-farm conservation since 2001 by involving farmers and their genetic resources in researches, by establishing Community Seed Bank in Kachorwa, Bara (2003) and Simariya, Sunsari (2011) and by enhancing landraces.  It is initiated to strengthen the Dalchowki CSB, first of its kind in Nepal established in 1994. Diversity fairs and diversity blocks are the major activities to collect and maintain the varietal diversity in CSB.


In-Situ Conservation
This is for wild edible plants and wild relatives of cultivated crop species.  The sites where, important wild edible plants and wild relatives exist, is planned to conserve in collaboration with National Parks, religiously and culturally protected sites, heritage sites and communities. It needs to locate species that needs to be conserved and develop strategies to protect their habitat collaborating with relevant stakeholders.


Utilization and Distribution
Genebank facilitates for utilization by providing easy access to APGR and databases, strengthen utilization with elite line development, collaborative marker assisted selection, tagging and mapping genes, screening germplasm, pre-breeding works and collaborations.

Genetic Resources that are Conserved

  1. Landraces
  2. Modern varieties
  3. Obsolete varieties
  4. Breeding lines, RILs, Genetic stocks, NILs, Differential lines
  5. Exotic genetic resources
  6. Crop wild relatives
  7. Wild edible plants

Flow of Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources(APGR) (proposed)
One window system of germplasm flow will be established. All the genetic resources inside and outside the country will go through the one window ie National Genebank. Rules and regulations including quarantine system will be developed. National Genebank will collaborate with other offices of NARC and DoA located in different sites across the country for quarantine and germplasm flows.

Proposed system of one-window of germplasm flow in the country.

Organization structure

Researchers

Contact Address

Genebank-NARC, Khumaltar
Khumaltar-Dhapakhel-Thecho Road (Near to ICIMOD)
PO Box 3055, Kathmandu
Tel: 5003125, 5003331
E-mail: genebanki@narc.gov.np,  narc.genebank@gmail.com
Website: www.genebank-narc.gov.np

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