The Colombian Agricultural Research Corporation (Corpoica) and CIAT are part of a global community of practice committed to developing a set of tools that facilitate proper management of germplasm collections and respond to users’ needs, from small producers to associations. Hence the importance of taking part in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), a global project supported by the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT). GRIN was created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), to manage its animal, plant, microbial, and invertebrate germplasm collections.
This platform started as a tool with a central computer and then a version to work on a stand-alone computer. Since 2013, the challenge consists in creating a new easy-to-use version to include an information management system, which can be modified in size and set-up to adapt to internet services and inquiries in such a way that it can be used by any genebank in the world.
“The ideal we pursue is that, by using a mobile phone, a producer will be able to request the seeds of his interest, a researcher will be able to collect field data and send them via internet to feed into the general database of germplasm collections, and a curator will have updated information to decide, for instance, when should he plan for regeneration of a given material,” says Daniel Debouck, leader of the Genetic Resources Program at CIAT, to explain the complexity of keeping the germplasm collections up to date and making them useful tools available for everyone.
An ideal that seems attainable when taking advantage of favorable factors, such as the widespread use of mobile phones, bar codes with a unique number identifying each sample stored in CIAT’s genebank, and the possibility of having a continuous dialog with other CGIAR Centers, such as the International Potato Center (CIP) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), as well as with strategic partners, such as Corpoica, which also contribute to improving germplasm collection management systems.
Corpoica has expressed a keen interest and support on this issue, since they expect to implement the advances achieved from the pilot experiment conducted by the Center and GRIN-Global on the cassava in vitro tissue collection, as well as those related to in vitro propagation of their potato, banana, manioc, achira, and sweet potato collections.
“Maintaining the germplasm collections is a task that requires strategy, dialog, and foresight”, says Debouck, who sees the pilot experiment with GRIN-Global also as an opportunity to find alternative methods for stunted growth management, understood as the delay in normal plant growth, for the species to be conserved in a collection. This is a process in which researchers have a limited range of variables to study, i.e. incidence of light waves and temperature.
It is thus important for CIAT’s genebank to have a regulated growth chamber to extend the time between subcultures of cassava from 4 to 10, or even 20 months.
Corpoica and CIAT hope to keep opening spaces for knowledge sharing on an issue so crucial to food security in Colombia and around the world.