Collections of crop diversity need to be used actively, for example to create better crops, in order to justify the cost of their upkeep. In order for crop collections to be used, data about the material held in genebanks needs to be of as high quality, and as easily accessible, as the seeds themselves. Therefore, the Crop Trust is working to build information systems to help manage and search crop collections globally.
Managing Crop Collections: GRIN-Global
The cost and technical challenges of developing and maintaining an information system can be daunting for many smaller crop collections. The Crop Trust and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)-ARS have addressed these challenges through the development of the classic Germplasm Resource Information Network (GRIN) software into a scalable and flexible genebank data management system, called GRIN-Global.
The Crop Trust will endeavor to support crop collections that express interest in testing and adopting GRIN-Global, or indeed in developing the system further. The Crop Trust can coordinate the efforts of these organizations, in collaboration with others as appropriate.
Accessing Global Information on Crop Collections: GeneSys
The GeneSys online portal provides a single entry point to data on plant genetic resources maintained around the world. It is the CGIAR’s collective way of making available critical data points of international crop collections, such as accession-level passport, characterization and evaluation. It is also a mechanism for any other crop collection to share its data, according to agreed standards, thus contributing significantly to the development of a comprehensive global information system on crop diversity.
As of 2014, GeneSys brings together data not only from the CGIAR but also from the European network of genebanks (Eurisco) and the USDA. It contains 2.77 million records from 446 crop collections. The Crop Trust is actively engaging with genebanks around the world to assist them in sharing data with Genesys.
Global partnership to put biodiversity to work: DivSeek
Diversity Seek or ‘DivSeek’, the first ever global effort of its kind, brings together a large number of public organizations and private partners from around the globe to mine data on plant genetic resources. The objective is to unlock the potential of crop diversity in order to accelerate the development of new, better crops for food security and nutrition.
Recent technological advances in molecular biology and bioinformatics have the potential to revolutionize the way we explore and utilize crop diversity, in the same way they are being used to develop innovative approaches to medicine. DivSeek, initially comprising 69 organizations from 30 countries, aims to apply the paradigm of personalized medicine to the conservation and use of crop diversity.