Protecting seeds for new varieties

March 20, 2014

When it comes to genetic diversity, Turkey is located in an important part of the world – a bridge between the crops of Europe and the Middle East. It is part of a region notable for the genetic diversity of plants which have been cultivated and adapted by mankind for millennia. With large areas of fertile land, the country has also become one of the biggest producers of agricultural products in the region.

Of the many plant species found in Turkey, more than 100 display a wide variation. These species are a very important genetic resource for the future sustainability of many plant species cultivated across the world. Conservation of this germplasm is vital in the development of new and improved varieties.

Dr Özbek in Tamworth
Dr Özbek in Tamworth

The Plant Genetic Resources (PGR) Department of The Central Research Institute for Field Crops (CRIFC) in Ankara, Turkey, has been running a seed bank since 1988– specialising in wheat, lentil and other crops. PGR scientist, Dr Kürşad Özbek attended a six-week Crawford Fund traineeship at the Australian Winter Cereals Collection (AWCC) in Tamworth in late 2011 – where he was able to witness the procedures undertaken at the AWCC and was introduced to a new web-enabled database called GrinGlobal that is a useful tool for germplasm selection FIGS (Focussed Identification of Germplasm Strategy).

FIGS information, relating to salinity, heat and drought tolerance in barley and wheat has been subsequently sent to Turkey for further evaluation. “During my short but comprehensive visit I met a lot of valuable scientists. Together we are planning collective projects for the future. These projects will be especially important in the determination and characterisation of drought and salinity resistant local species. In our mutual projects we may share materials as well,” said Dr Özbek.