ICARDA’s Genetic Resources (GRS) Team, led by Dr. Zakaria Kehel, works in Lebanon and Morocco, alongside global networks including the CGIAR Genebank Platform, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, GIZ-Germany, the European Union, and other development partners. Together, they collect, conserve, and develop the vital genetic resources needed to protect agrobiodiversity in dry regions.
Our genebanks currently contain over 143,806 accessions of major winter cereals, food legumes, forage, and rangeland species. This is in spite of the upheaval encountered when the ICARDA genebank relocated from Aleppo in Syria in 2012, due to unrest in the country. Since then a tremendous effort to safeguard and duplicate the precious collection means that to date, 83,702 accessions, out of the original 91,751 are available for distribution to global breeding programs. Efforts to regenerate the remaining accessions are ongoing.
In 2020 core activities included developing and applying best practices for acquisition, pre-breeding, regeneration, conservation, distribution, and documentation of genetic resources. The GRS Team also continued reconstructing active base collections in Lebanon and Morocco, regenerating and characterizing accessions in 2020. further collection missions were carried out in countries.
As well as this, to ensure that CGIAR harnesses ICARDA’s expertise and genetic resources under the One CGIAR reformulation, the GRS Team is also working with other CGIAR Centers on the new frameworks that will define CGIAR’s future genebank approaches.
Efforts to improve performance in 2020 means that the ICARDA genebank system now responds faster to genetic resources research requests by intensifying the Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy (FIGS) approach and ensuring safety duplications at two levels, as targeted by the CGIAR Genebank Platform. The Moroccan dryland agrobiodiversity genebank facility was also completed in November.
High on our 2020 agenda was strengthening pre-breeding activities for ICARDA mandate crops such as grass pea and accelerating pre-breeding for drought, heat, and salt tolerance/resistance for barley.
ICARDA was also proud to lead a multi-nation project, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation, to develop sets of germplasm which allows characterization of virulences of the Aschocyta blight pathogen and identify good sources of resistance.
We also contributed to the AGENT project funded by the European Union and launched in 2020. It standardizes and pools phenotype information from global gene bank networks within a single database and will revolutionize plant genetic resources information sharing.