50 years of pre­serv­ing crop ge­netic di­ver­sity in Canada

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Classified­s -

Canada’s na­tional genebank for plant ge­netic re­sources is cel­e­brat­ing its 50th an­niver­sary! Of­fi­cially known as Plant Gene Re­sources of Canada (PGRC), it was es­tab­lished in 1970 and has con­trib­uted to na­tional and global food se­cu­rity ever since.

The 50th year of PGRC has come at a unique time for our world, as the out­break of COVID-19 re­minds us that pan­demics can hap­pen at any time – to hu­mans, crops or an­i­mals. As we have seen with COVID-19, the glob­al­iza­tion of sup­ply chains for agri­cul­tural and hor­ti­cul­tural crops can in­ad­ver­tently re­duce the ge­netic di­ver­sity of crops mak­ing them sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­ease and wide-spread crop fail­ures.

“Hav­ing the ge­netic traits for dis­ease re­sis­tance avail­able is one of the ma­jor con­tri­bu­tions of genebanks around the world, in­clud­ing PGRC. In ad­di­tion, the need to rely more on lo­cally adapted crops in the fu­ture may be sup­ported by ge­netic di­ver­sity in the genebank col­lec­tions,” said Dr. Axel Diederich­sen, Cu­ra­tor, Plant Gene Re­sources of Canada.

PGRC, orig­i­nally lo­cated in Ot­tawa, moved to Saska­toon, Saskatchew­an, in 1998. It is part of the Cana­dian na­tional plant genebank sys­tem for plant ge­netic re­sources for food and agri­cul­ture, which also in­cludes the Cana­dian Clonal Genebank in Har­row, On­tario, which fo­cuses on fruit crops; and, Cana­dian Potato Gene Re­sources in Fred­er­ic­ton, New Brunswick.

The seed bank at PGRC main­tains a col­lec­tion of more than 115,000 dif­fer­ent sam­ples (or ac­ces­sions) of cul­ti­vated plant species and their wild rel­a­tives. This col­lec­tion in­cludes sam­ples from coun­tries across the globe, but the PGRC is more than a place that just ac­quires and pre­serves sam­ples. PGRC re­ju­ve­nates and as­sesses seed germplasm and un­der­takes col­lab­o­ra­tive re­search on how best to store seeds, and ger­mi­nate and cul­ti­vate them to learn more about their ge­net­ics and traits.

PGRC col­lab­o­rates with many in­ter­na­tional part­ners in­clud­ing the United States, Mex­ico and other coun­tries in­volved in the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO) of the United Na­tions. PGRC is Canada’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in a world­wide net­work of plant ge­netic re­sources cen­tres co­or­di­nated by the FAO and is our key player in the North Amer­i­can PROCINORTE Task Force as well as the In­ter­na­tional Treaty for Plant Ge­netic Re­sources for Food and Agri­cul­ture.

“For North Amer­ica, the co­op­er­a­tion among the US, Mex­ico and Canada’s plant ge­netic re­sources is co­or­di­nated by the PROCINORTE Task Force on Ge­netic Re­sources. Glob­ally, the In­ter­na­tional Treaty for Plant Ge­netic Re­sources for Food and Agri­cul­ture and the 50 years of pre­serv­ing crop ge­netic di­ver­sity in Canada. Canada’s na­tional genebank for plant ge­netic re­sources is cel­e­brat­ing its 50th an­niver­sary! Of­fi­cially known as Plant Gene Re­sources of Canada (PGRC), it was es­tab­lished in 1970 and has con­trib­uted to na­tional and global food se­cu­rity ever since.

The 50th year of PGRC has come at a unique time for our world, as the out­break of COVID-19 re­minds us that pan­demics can hap­pen at any time – to hu­mans, crops or an­i­mals. As we have seen with COVID-19, the glob­al­iza­tion of sup­ply chains for agri­cul­tural and hor­ti­cul­tural crops can in­ad­ver­tently re­duce the ge­netic di­ver­sity of crops mak­ing them sus­cep­ti­ble to dis­ease and wide-spread crop fail­ures.

They need PGRC’s im­por­tant work to pre­serve the ge­netic di­ver­sity of cul­ti­vated plants and their wild rel­a­tives to sup­port plant breed­ing and con­duct re­search and ed­u­ca­tion.

“Hav­ing the ge­netic traits for dis­ease re­sis­tance avail­able is one of the ma­jor con­tri­bu­tions of genebanks around the world, in­clud­ing PGRC. In ad­di­tion, the need to rely more on lo­cally adapted crops in the fu­ture may be sup­ported by ge­netic di­ver­sity in the genebank col­lec­tions.” Said Dr. Axel Diederich­sen, Cu­ra­tor, Plant Gene Re­sources of Canada.

PGRC, orig­i­nally lo­cated in Ot­tawa, moved to Saska­toon, Saskatchew­an, in 1998. It is part of the Cana­dian na­tional plant genebank sys­tem for plant ge­netic re­sources for food and agri­cul­ture, which also in­cludes the Cana­dian Clonal Genebank in Har­row, On­tario, which fo­cuses on fruit crops; and, Cana­dian Potato Gene Re­sources in Fred­er­ic­ton, New Brunswick.

The seed bank at PGRC main­tains a col­lec­tion of more than 115,000 dif­fer­ent sam­ples (or ac­ces­sions) of cul­ti­vated plant species and their wild rel­a­tives. This col­lec­tion in­cludes sam­ples from coun­tries across the globe, but the PGRC is more than a place that just ac­quires and pre­serves sam­ples. PGRC re­ju­ve­nates and as­sesses seed germplasm and un­der­takes col­lab­o­ra­tive re­search on how best to store seeds, and ger­mi­nate and cul­ti­vate them to learn more about their ge­net­ics and traits.

PGRC col­lab­o­rates with many in­ter­na­tional part­ners in­clud­ing the United States, Mex­ico and other coun­tries in­volved in the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO) of the United Na­tions. PGRC is Canada’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in a world­wide net­work of plant ge­netic re­sources cen­tres co­or­di­nated by the FAO and is our key player in the North Amer­i­can PROCINORTE Task Force as well as the In­ter­na­tional Treaty for Plant Ge­netic Re­sources for Food and Agri­cul­ture.

“For North Amer­ica, the co­op­er­a­tion among the US, Mex­ico and Canada’s plant ge­netic re­sources is co­or­di­nated by the PROCINORTE Task Force on Ge­netic Re­sources. Glob­ally, the In­ter­na­tional Treaty for Plant Ge­netic Re­sources for Food and Agri­cul­ture and the Com­mis­sion on Ge­netic Re­sources of the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion of the United Na­tions are im­por­tant for PGRC. They en­hance the co­or­di­na­tion of global ef­forts to en­sure ge­netic di­ver­sity for food se­cu­rity is main­tained and can be used to sup­port food se­cu­rity. In ad­di­tion, PGRC is in con­tact with many na­tional genebanks around the world.” Added Dr. Axel Diederich­sen, Cu­ra­tor, Plant Gene Re­sources of Canada.

An­nu­ally, the PGRC dis­trib­utes more than 5,000 germplasm sam­ples in­clud­ing seeds, tu­bers, and cut­tings na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally to over 60 coun­tries. These sam­ples are used to sup­port re­search, breed­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of agri­cul­ture here in Canada and around the world.

The work be­ing done at PGRC plays a fun­da­men­tal role in en­sur­ing the re­silience of Canada’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor and con­trib­ute to our world’s food se­cu­rity and food sup­ply.

An­nu­ally, the PGRC dis­trib­utes more than 5,000 germplasm sam­ples in­clud­ing seeds, tu­bers, and cut­tings na­tion­ally and in­ter­na­tion­ally to over 60 coun­tries. These sam­ples are used to sup­port re­search, breed­ing, ed­u­ca­tion and the di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion of agri­cul­ture here in Canada and around the world.

The work be­ing done at PGRC plays a fun­da­men­tal role in en­sur­ing the re­silience of Canada’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor and con­trib­ute to our world’s food se­cu­rity and food sup­ply.

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