Department of Gene Bank
The main mission of the Gene Bank is the conservation of plant genetic resources important for food and agriculture (PGR), their availability and distribution to local and foreign users in accordance with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA). Following the Act no.148/2003 the Czech Ministry of Agriculture authorized the CRI Prague as the coordinating institution of the Czech National Programme on PGR and for coordination of the Czech activities on the international level.
Seed samples for long-term conservation come from either CRI’s own resources (plant collections) or from the collections of cooperating partners. All seed samples are checked and those meeting the standards demanded are dried to optimal moisture levels and stored in sealed glass containers at a constant temperature of -18°C in air-conditioned storage rooms, thus ensuring the long viability of conserved seeds. However, the stored seeds are systematically monitored to avoid genetic erosion. To increase the security of the conservation system, both active and base collections are maintained; PGR of local origin are maintained as safe duplicates in the Slovak Gene Bank, as well. The air-conditioned storage facilities were put into operation in 1989 and a necessary renovation of the gene bank was completed in 2009. Today, the modernized Gene Bank meets all international standards and has a reasonable spare storage capacity for further increase of collections and international collaboration. Presently, more than 40,000 accessions are stored in the Gene Bank, representing some 96% of accessions in all Czech seed collections; the samples are stored in 80,000 storage containers.
The Gene Bank provides access to the PGR seed samples for research, breeding and educational purposes free of charge, on request. The Plant Genetic Resources Database is available online (http://genbank.vurv.cz/genetic/resources/
) and facilitates services to users, mainly providing information needed for en effective choice of PGR. The number of expedited samples varied between 2,500 and 3,500 samples per year, with strong recent increase. The most frequent requests come from national and foreign research centres, and breeding stations, as well as educational centres such as universities. Less frequent are requests from farmers or for exhibition purposes. As a coordinator of the National Programme on Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Utilization (NP), the Gene Bank manages the activities of 12 specialized institutions located at 15 different research centres; the NP covers all activities related to PGR conservation and utilization comprising 52 thousand PGR in various crop collections. Coordination also includes the administration of the PGR Central Database.
Within the framework of the National Programme, the Gene Bank itself is responsible for maintaining and evaluating wheat, triticale, winter barley, beet, and maize, as well as collections of alternative and neglected field crops (e.g. buckwheat, millet, sorghum, and amaranth). The collections comprising also landraces and crop wild relatives represent in total more than one third of all the genetic resources located in Czech collections. Beside conservation and the use of PGR in breeding, results are also used in applied research aimed at the promotion and application of genetic diversity, crop improvement and breeding.
The exchange, collection, documentation, evaluation and safe conservation of the PGR are essential activities, and, together with the services to its users (providing PGR samples and relevant information), are internationally considered as a service of public interest and supported on a global and regional level. The Gene Bank takes part in FAO efforts and actively works in the European Cooperative Programme on Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR).
The Gene Bank has been awarded the ČSN EN ISO 9001:2009 certification of quality management related to its seed bank activities, evaluation of genetic resources in field trials, cereals and minor crop genetic resources regeneration, and technological quality assessment.
Ing. Zdeněk Stehno, CSc.
Head of Department