Keeping genebank collections healthy and viable

June 12, 2012 at 6:25 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pollination by bumble bees helps multiply and regenerate ICARDA’s genebank collection

ICARDA’s genebank holds more than 133,000 accessions from 718 plant taxa, including wild relatives or progenitors of many of the world’s most important crops, and 68 genera of rangeland and pastoral species. Some of the wild species are perennials and around 130 are cross-pollinated with partial or complete self-incompatibility. Regeneration or multiplication of accessions of these species – and others with high cross-pollination rates – requires special arrangements for isolation and pollination.

With funding from the Global Crop Diversity Trust, ICARDA has established 165 insect-proof isolation cages to avoid genetic contamination during multiplication and regeneration. Bumble bees, imported from the Netherlands last month, are used to facilitate pollination (local species of bumble bee are unsuitable). Nearly 850 accessions have been multiplied, and the improved methods have allowed significantly larger quantities of seed to be produced. In alfalfa, seed production increased fifty-fold. The use of isolation cages and bumblebees will be expanded to other species next season. This will enhance our collections of Trifolium, Medicago, Onobrychus, Sitopsis, Aegilops and others – particularly rangeland flora and grasses – providing a huge pool of raw material for plant breeders worldwide.

For more information contact Dr Ahmed Amri, Head, Genetic Resources, email

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