Like all living things, seeds grow old and die. The cold, dry conditions of storage in genebanks slow down the aging process, but at some point all samples (accessions) require planting, growing out, and harvesting, so that fresh seeds can be put in the genebank and conservation can continue indefinitely. This process – called regeneration - is an essential, but often neglected, part of conservation.
The Trust has supported priority genebank collections worldwide to regenerate - and update their data records on– accessions identified as the highest priority by crop experts, because unique and at risk. In addition, the Trust has supported regional networks to identify further collections needing urgent regeneration, in order to ensure that unique accessions held outside the larger and better known collections survive.
Through the provision of equipment, supplies, training, and labour, this initiative has secured for breeders, researchers and other users tens of thousands of vulnerable accessions of some 22 priority crops, including banana/plantain, barley, bean, breadfruit, cassava, chickpea, coconut, cowpea, faba bean, finger millet, grasspea, maize, taro, lentil, pearl millet, pigeonpea, potato, rice, sorghum, sweet potato, wheat, and yam. Following successful regeneration, many previously inaccessible accessions are now available to users for the first time. For more information on these projects, and to search the technical results and output, please click on the database link below.
Regeneration of collections has additional spin-off benefits. The regeneration process is an opportunity for the collection of new information about accessions, further stimulating their use by breeders and researchers. Successful regeneration also produces enough seed for the creation of safety duplicates, which have been sent to appropriate cooperating genebanks as well as (in the case of orthodox seeds) the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
Maintaining collections at acceptable standards is difficult for many genebanks, due to the costs involved and limited capacity — especially when faced with the complex regeneration procedures required by some species. This has resulted in regeneration backlogs, putting important diversity in danger.
The Trust has supported Bioversity International, acting on behalf of the then-System-wide Genetic Resources Programme (SGRP), to develop crop-specific regeneration guidelines for major food crops: banana, bean, breadfruit, cassava, chickpea, coconut, cowpea, faba bean, finger millet, grass pea, maize, major aroids, lentil, pearl millet, pigeon pea, potato, rice, sorghum, sweet potato, wheat and yam. These guidelines can be found here. You can also download an introduction to regeneration of crops below.