Saturday, September 18, 2021

Taking the legacy of conserving indigenous crops with world’s second-largest refurbished ‘Gene Bank’

Taking an imperative towards conserving the diversity of indigenous crops in the country, Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Narendra Singh Tomar has inaugurated the world’s second-largest refurbished state-of-the-art National Gene Bank at the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), Pusa, New Delhi.

The National Gene Bank will work towards preserving the seeds of Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) for future generations, and has the capacity to preserve about one million germplasm in the form of seeds.

Speaking on the occasion, Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar appreciated the services of visionary experts like Prof. B. P. Pal, Prof. M.S. Swaminathan & Prof. Harbhajan Singh and said,” They had laid a strong foundation for the conservation of diversity of indigenous crops in India. We have a glorious past, for the progress of the country, everyone should keep moving forward with a sense of responsibility towards the future.”

Further, the Union Minister asserted that the revamped state-of-the-art National Gene Bank is a powerful step in that direction of conservation of indigenous crops. He added that the need for biofortified crop varieties is being felt and the Indian government is working towards it.

Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Kailash Choudhary also mentioned the imperativeness of the new gene bank with state-of-the-art facilities for germplasm – a living genetic tissue from which new plants can be grown. It can be a seed or another plant part – a leaf, a piece of stem, pollen or even just a few cells that can be turned into a whole plant. It can be used for the purpose of animal and plant breeding, preservation, and other research uses as well.

The Genesis and purpose of National Gene Bank

Established in 1996, the National Gene Bank (NGB) works towards preserving the seeds of Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) for future generations. Presently, the bank is protecting 4.52 lakh accessions, of which 2.7 lakh are Indian germplasm and the rest have been imported from other nations. National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources is meeting the need of in-situ and ex-situ germplasm conservation through Delhi Headquarters and 10 regional stations across India.

Primarily, NGB has four kinds of facilities, namely, Seed Genebank (- 18°C), Cryogenebank (-170°C to -196°C), In vitro Genebank (25°C), and Field Genebank, to cater to long-term as well as medium-term conservation of the indigenous crops namely cereals, millets, medicinal and aromatic plants and narcotics, among others.

A look at global facilities working towards conserving crops

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway houses the world’s largest collection of seeds.

India’s seed vault is at Chang La (Ladakh) in the Himalayas. Built in 2010 jointly by the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research and the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources, this seed bank is the second largest in the world

Established with the objective of conserving the indigenous livestock biodiversity, National Animal Gene Bank is nestled at the National Bureau of Animal Genetic

Resources (NBAGR – Karnal, Haryana), has the objective of conserving the indigenous livestock biodiversity.

National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources

Set up in January 1977, the ‘National Bureau of Plant Introduction’ was renamed as ‘National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources’ (NBPGR). It is one of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) Institutes.

The Bureau has played a pivotal role in the improvement of various crop plants and diversification and development of agriculture in India through germplasm introduction from various institutes, organizations located in foreign countries and germplasm collection from within the country and abroad and conservation thereof.

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