Dr. El Tahir Ibrahim Mohamed
Director, Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Research Centre
Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Research Centre
The Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) Programme in the ARC, which is managed at present by the Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Research Centre (APGRC), has passed through an evolutionary process since the early 1980s as follows:
- It started in 1982 as an activity within the Horticultural Research Section of the ARC to collect, conserve and characterize the local genetic resources of horticultural crops, including vegetables and medicinal and aromatic plants, with support from what was so called by then the International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR).
- In 1995 the ARC upgraded this activity into a separate programme for conservation of, and conducting research on the local genetic resources of all cultivated crops in Sudan. The programme was operated since then through an independent entity under the ARC, which was called the Plant Genetic Resources Unit.
- In the meantime the programme was developing in terms of human resources; infra-structure and activities related to collection, conservation, characterization and evaluation of local genetic resources of different plant species important for food and agriculture in Sudan.
- Following the considerable expansion in the germplasm holdings, physical capacity and human capacity, the PGR Unit was upgraded into a centre in 2014 named the Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Research Centre (APGRC).
Objectives and expected outputs
The APGRC has a mandate of realizing sustainable management and use of the plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) in Sudan through attaining the following specific objectives:
- Conservation of local PGRFA against deterioration, loss and extinction.
- Enhancement of sustainable use of PGRFA in scientific research and breeding activities, as well as in activities related to protecting and sustaining the natural ecosystems and farming systems.
- Protection of national, community and farmers’ rights over the PGRFA, and realization of fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their use.
As a result of endeavours of the PGR programme to fulfill its mandate and attain different objectives, a number of outputs are expected to be realized including the following:
- A comprehensive national system for ex-situ and in-situ (on-farm) conservation of PGRFA in Sudan established on the basis of the international scientific standards.
- A knowledge base on the nature, size and values of diversity of PGRFA in Sudan created, and hence sustainable use of such genetic resources enhanced
- Data on PGRFA in Sudan well managed, and access to the PGRFA and associated information facilitated on the basis of the internationally agreed terms and nationally accepted conditions.
- The sovereign rights of the country and the rights of all parties over the PGRFA in Sudan protected, and fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from their use realized.
Structure and facilities
The PGR programme is run by the APGRC, which is structured in a network composed of genebanks, managerial sections and research projects.
Activities for conservation of the local PGRFA are carried out through a network of genebanks that comprise seed and field genebanks. They are composed of a central national genebank facility at the headquarters of the APGRC in Wad Medani, which is connected with a number of sub-national genebank units located in different agricultural research stations of the ARC. The latter include a seed genebank unit in Elobeid, banana field genebank in Kassala and date palm field genebank in Elhudeiba.
The central genebank is located within the APGRC headquarters in Wad Medani. It is composed at present of a central seed genebank with a number of seed laboratories attached to it. Batches of seed samples of all germplasm collections from all over the country are ex-situ conserved under long term seed storage conditions, which are realized in deep freezers that are adjusted at around -20° C. Seeds are adjusted at a level of moisture content within a range of 3-7% before permanently stored in the seed bank. They are packaged in laminated aluminum foil packets that are then hermetically sealed before deposited in the freezers. Seeds are tested for viability at the beginning before finally accepted and deposited in the genebank, and then on a regular basis for monitoring purposes. All deep freezers are accommodated in separate rooms, which are air-conditioned to around 22° C the whole day round.
The central seed genebank is attached with two seed laboratories, which are a seed drying and testing laboratory and a seed testing and packaging laboratory. This is in addition to a seed extraction room, where seed samples of germplasm collections are received from the original sources after collecting or multiplied in the field. They are then extracted, cleaned and temporarily packaged for further seed processing operations. The seed samples are then dried using seed drying cabinets within the seed drying and testing laboratory. They are also tested for viability within the same laboratory using a seed germinator or under open air conditions in a seed testing nursery. Once dried, seeds are then transferred to the seed testing and packaging laboratory, where they are tested for seed moisture content using a seed moisture analyser before permanently packaged. The seed samples of accepted moisture levels are packaged into the laminated aluminum foil packets, which are sealed using a heat sealing machine. Seed packets are then deposited into the appropriate freezers within the seed bank. The original seed samples firstly acquired by the genebank are kept in a batch separate from those resulting from any subsequent seed multiplication or regeneration processes. The Central genebank facility is equipped with a stand-by generator for emergencies.
Sub-national Seed genebank in Elobeid
A sub-national seed genebank unit is established within Elobeid Agricultural Research Station since 2005. The purpose from establishing this unit has been to conserve a copy of the seeds of the germplasm accessions conserved in the central genebank for use and safety duplication. Two major batches are stored in this seed bank. They consist of an active copy from germplasm accessions collected from the regions in the western sector of Sudan viz Kordofan and Darfur regions, in addition to a duplicate copy from other accessions collected from other regions of Sudan for safety purposes. This unit is equipped with major seed storage and processing facilities including deep-freeze chests, seed moisture analyzer, cooled incubator and heat sealing machine for aluminum packets. It is also supplied with a stand-by generator for emergencies.
Seed samples in Elobeid seed bank are also stored in deep freezers under long term conditions of -20° C, with seed moisture content adjusted within the range of 3-7%. Seeds are also packaged in laminated aluminum foil packets that are heat sealed.
Banana field genebank in Kassala
A field genebank for banana genetic resources is established in Kassala and Elgash Agricultural Research Station since 2001. It occupies a land area of 10 feddans, where a collection of banana plantations is grown for conservation of banana clones collected from different traditional areas for banana production in Sudan. The banana plantations are maintained by regularly applying the routine necessary cultural practices for banana production including weed removal, irrigation and chemical fertilization. It is equipped with some necessary field tools including a hand tractor and other manual tools.
Date palm field genebank in Elhudeiba
A field genebank for date palm genetic resources is established in Elhudeiba Agricultural Research Station since 2015. It occupies so far a land area of around 8 feddans, where a collection of date palm trees is grown for conservation of date palm genetic resources collected as off-shoots from different traditional areas for date’s production in Northern and River Nile states of Sudan. The field genebank is maintained by applying on regular basis the routine necessary cultural practices for date palms including weed removal, irrigation and chemical fertilization. It is equipped with some necessary field tools including a hand tractor and other manual tools.
The PGR programme is managed through the APGRC from its headquarters in Wad Medani. The director of the centre is responsible for all administrative and financial aspects to ensure the proper implementation of all components of the programme. This is in addition to his/her technical responsibilities with regard to the development and implementation of the technical plans and activities of the programme. As the central genebank is playing a major national role in the management of all PGRFA holdings its work is undertaken through two main sections, which are the PGR conservation section and the PGR information management section.
PGR Conservation Section
This section is responsible for ensuring the proper conservation and management as well as monitoring of the state of all PGRFA holdings in the central genebank. This includes all germplasm processing and testing operations, germplasm storage conditions and operations related to providing access for users to the germplasm holdings according to regulations. The section is headed by one of the research staff in the centre with technical assistance provided by a team of technicians and labourers.
PGR Information Management Section
This section is responsible for ensuring the proper management of all data related to the PGRFA holdings such as passport, management, characterization and evaluation data. Its routine activities cover adding, editing and producing reports on available information. The section is also responsible for managing access to the available data for users according to regulations. Moreover, it is also responsible for preparation and production of publication materials of relevance to the activities of the programme. The section is headed by one of the research staff with a major technical role played by an information management technician.
The processes related to data management are realized through operating and using a genebank documentation system with a comprehensive database. This genebank documentation system used is known as SESTO, which is a genebank data management tool, developed and used by Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (Nordgen). The SESTO is operated through a server linked with different personal computer units through a local area network. This system is used at present by the APGRC to manage the passport and management data, and it is being upgraded at present to accommodate characterization and evaluation data as well.
Research activities of the PGR programme are aiming at exploring the in-situ diversity of the PGRFA in Sudan, as well as enhancing their use through studying this diversity to provide necessary information on its size and values. To accomplish such objectives the PGR programme is dealing with different research topics under a number of thematic and crop-wise projects as following:
- Exploration and conservation of PGRFA.
- Enhancement of use of the genetic resources of cereal crops.
- Enhancement of use of the genetic resources of oil crops.
- Enhancement of use of the genetic resources of leguminous crops.
- Enhancement of use of the genetic resources of vegetables and medicinal and aromatic plants.
- Enhancement of use of the genetic resources of vegetative propagated fruit producing plants.
- Enhancement of use of the genetic resources of natural range plants.
The research activities of different projects include the following:
- Conducting field surveys and organizing regular missions to explore, collect and acquire samples of the genetic resources, including farmers’ varieties, old cultivars, breeding materials and wild relatives for the purpose of ex-situ conservation in the genebanks.
- Characterizing the PGRFA for morho-agronomic traits as well as genetic traits using standardized descriptor lists and molecular tools for different plant genera.
- Evaluating the PGRFA for different desirable traits on the basis of field performance under natural or controlled conditions, or by using molecular markers.