Preserving genetic diversity
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CTA. 2007. Preserving genetic diversity. Rural Radio Resource Pack 07/4. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57282
Protecting the genetic material and knowledge about local seed.
Preserving genetic diversity Cue: The seeds of all the varieties of crops we have now are a massive and marvellous resource. They are a resource for plant breeders - who are trying to develop varieties with improved yields or better resistance to disease. And they are a resource for farmers - who may need rare or old varieties that may be, for example, better adapted to conditions brought about by climate change. One of the best living museums of seeds is a gene bank. Usually held by a research centre, inside there are millions of labelled containers of seeds. They are kept in perfect conditions to keep the seed alive and available to researchers or farmers that may want to use it. Crop scientist Sakile Kudita, from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), wants all farmers to know what gene banks are for. So Busani Bafana in Zimbabwe asked her to explain the benefits and what farmers can do to make sure this and future generations of farmers benefit from the riches provided by gene banks. IN: ?Gene banks preserve the value? OUT: ?in very small quantities.? DUR?N: 2?51? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: That was Busani Bafana in Zimbabwe, speaking to Sakile Kudita. She says that preserving local seed varieties is important to save genetic diversity, but also to save local knowledge about those varieties. The interview comes from a radio resource pack produced by CTA. Transcript Kudita Gene banks preserve the value and the diversity of a particular crop and that is why they are so important. So in other words we have this one crop for example sorghum which has several different types. In the gene bank we take all those different types and put them in one house. We are trying to capture the entire gene pool of that particular crop. Bafana For the benefit of farmers, why are gene banks necessary? Kudita Gene banks help breeders improve crops to benefit the farmers. It provides us with a source of material for breeders to pick up and improve that crop and then later on provide the same to the farmers ok. And the other thing about that is in a gene bank we collect the crop from the whole world in other words. So we get farmers in one region benefiting from advances made by farmers in another region because we have got all the material, its diversity in one pot from which we can draw what is better and benefit the farmers that way. One other important thing about the gene banks is they preserve these things from extinction. When we have the weather extremes we may loose a lot of material. The influx of improved varieties makes it necessary to have a gene bank because chances are everybody is going to grow the same thing, the newly-released variety and they stop growing the old one. But as you may notice eventually we may end up wanting that old one back. Bafana What then is the role of the farmers in the establishment of a gene bank? Kudita You see when you put a particular seed of a particular type into the gene bank you cannot just keep the seed there you need information about it. So that information comes from the indigenous people, we get it from the farmers themselves. This particular thing has this advantage it has good yields, it does not get damaged by weevils. That is the indigenous knowledge we are drawing. Bafana What can you encourage the farmers to do in contributing to the establishment or even to the operation of a gene bank? Kudita When farmers donate material, that seed must be accompanied by adequate information about it. For that seed to be useful it must have information, where did you get it from? What is it about that you think we should know? Is it resistant to this disease? Does it store well? Has it got a good flavour? All that information must come with that seed. And if farmers also want something that they think we may have, I know farmers normally say we used to grow this, we do not know where it has gone to now. By chance it is here in the gene bank. You may come and if we have it we will be glad to provide although in very small quantities. End of track.