Plant Gene Resources of Canada: Our Investment in Biodiversity and Sustainability
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Plant Gene Resources of Canada: Our Investment in Biodiversity and Sustainability

January 9, 2020

[Music starts.] Axel Diederichsen: Agriculture is not a static thing; it’s a living thing… …it needs steadily to adapt to changes… …changes of the environment, changes in the productions system, new pests arrive… …new diseases arrive, and in order to have this plasticity in agriculture… …you need genetic diversity. This is the National Canadian Gene Bank for Plant Genetic Resources for food and agriculture. You could compare a gene bank to a library. Huge collection, lots of information. But what have in our collection is germplasm. Viable germplasm. Germplasm is a material from which you can regenerate a whole plant. The most common thing is seeds. Most of the germplasm… …we preserve at the Canadian gene bank is in the form of seeds. We preserve here about 115 thousand… …excessions of germplasm. Excession is a technical term, it basically means an envelope with seeds. That contains material with seeds that are distinct from seeds in another envelope. For example in oat we have 28 thousand excessions of oats. That means 28 thousand samples and each sample is supposedly different from another sample. Farms are in need of… …adapting to changes, finding new opportunities… …economic opportunities, new crops new usages. Gene banks feed into that by allowing and enabling… …plant breeders to produce these cultivars… …or to introduce these new traits that are very important for the agriculture industry. Christina Eynck: One of the key elements of a breeding programme… …and its success is genetic diversity. The gene banks really play a crucial role. At some point camelina was really an almost forgotten crop. If it was not for PGRC here in Canada… …and other gene banks world wide… …who collected all the different camelina material… …and stored them breeders like me… …would really not have any material to work with. We wouldn’t have any access to genetic diversity. Axel Diederichsen: So the plant breeders will write to us and request germplasm. They will receive a small envelope of seeds or vegetative plant material… …so that they have diverse material to start with to investigate or to utilize. Dallas Kessler: A requirement for the distribution is that the purpose… …of the seeds is for research or education. Within Canada our wheat excessions are the most sought after. Internationally our oat, barley, brassica… …and flax are the most frequently requested. Axel Diederichesen: The diversity of crop plans is man made diversity. If we don’t preserve it, it will be lost more or less instantly. It’s a cultural heritage that has grown… …over ten thousand years. And this diversity, and this cultural heritage… …goes physically through our hands in the gene bank. That’s very fascinating. Dallas Kessler: I like to thing that we’re making a contribution to global agriculture. And hopefully that makes food more accessible to people everywhere. [Music fades out.]

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