A bank for seeds as ever been heard of! Yes. Here we are talking about seed bank to secure the future of Indian Agriculture.
If we do not have germplasm, we do not have the basis to develop anything. So all the breeding programmes and research on these crops are based on germplasm and the genebank represents the biggest diversity possible of all those crops so we can have variability. Our job is to generate data so we can improve the utility of the bank,” Vania Azevedo, head of the ICRISAT Genebank, told Mongabay-India.
The ICRISAT Genebank in Telangana serves as a global repository for the collection of germplasm of six mandate crops (crops assigned to ICRISAT for research): sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut, finger millet; and five small millets: foxtail millet, little millet, kodo millet, proso millet and barnyard millet.
This fortified archive at the International crop research Institute for semi arid tropics headquarters at Patancheru near Hyderabad in Telangana, is home to one of the largest plant genebanks in the world – a safehouse with rows of neatly labelled cans and vacuum sealed aluminium foil packs containing seeds.
And for over four decades, the R.S. Paroda genebank at ICRISAT has been working quietly to preserve bounties of crop diversity watched over by expert genebank managers.
The collection of raw genetic material is needed to breed diverse crops to ensure food security, as environmental degradation, climate change and desertification in dryland areas threaten food productionandsecurity.
The genebank hosts 126,830 accessions (samples of a particular plant population stored as seeds) collected and assembled from 144 countries, including the world’s largest genetic holdings of sorghum, pearl millet chickpea, pigeonpea, groundnut and small millets.
By drying and freezing, the lifespan of the seeds can be extended to the order of decades and even centuries. Because of the diversity, researchers and farmers tap into this collection as a source for tolerance to diseases and insect pests, environmental stresses, higher nutritional quality and traits related to yield for crop improvement,” Upadhyaya, said.
Several germplasm accessions, conserved as active and base collection in the genebank, are as old as 45 years (1974-75 post-rainy season harvests), Upadhyaya said.