SARDI’s Director Science Partnerships Professor Simon Maddocks in the SARDI Genetic Resources Centre with the Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Dr Shakeel Bhatti.
SARDI’s seed collection at its Genetic Resources Centre at Waite Campus has been described as important both domestically and globally by the Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Dr Shakeel Bhatti.
Dr Bhatti was in Adelaide on March 20 to present a seminar on “The Global Genepool: An innovative approach to the global food security challenge” at the Waite Campus, Urrbrae.
“The collection that SARDI has created will help immensely in maintaining Australian agricultural production and in dealing with some of the future challenges for growth production such as climate change adaptation and other breeding challenges,” he said.
“This collection is also relevant to other countries that require some of the seed material stored at the facility to maintain and ensure food security. The collection is also, in a way, an insurance policy against catastrophic erasure of diversity resulting from natural or human means.”
The SARDI Genetic Resource Centre, one of five national germplasm centres, houses the world’s largest collection of temperate pasture species and medicago species with 46,000 seed accessions. This includes 95% unique seed collected over the past 60 years from temperate zone countries around the world that is not held anywhere else.
Locally SARDI researchers are developing a diverse range of native and exotic pasture and shrub species that can cope with more extreme weather conditions, water shortage and salinity, spanning clover, lucerne, grasses and dryland shrubs. They are also developing new perennials for improved stock production, plants that help us manage the carbon balance, and groundcovers to safeguard our soils from environmental damage. Adaptation to climate change, reduction in methane emissions, drought tolerance and resilience to heat shock are key traits that are being developed in this next generation of pastures, as well as resistance to pests and diseases and nutritional value.
The SARDI Genetic Resources Centre provides valuable germplasm to assist in the development of many of these new varieties.
The Treaty, an operation of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, is an international agreement with the overall goal of supporting global food security. It allows governments, farmers, research institutes and agri-industries to work together by pooling their genetic resources and sharing benefits from their use.
With this Treaty, 64 important crops that produce our food, such as rice, wheat, maize and potatoes – are put into a common pool. The Treaty facilitates access to those crops, makes them available free of charge to researchers and plant breeders who agree to share any future commercial benefits from their use in modern plant breeding or biotechnology.
Since Dr Bhatti took office in 2007, he has managed the launch of the first multilaterally governed, global access and benefit sharing system, which now contains more than 1.5 million samples of plant genetic material and facilitates more than 600 transfers of genetic material every day from international genebanks alone.
Dr Bhatti has also established the Benefit-sharing Fund of the Treaty with a target of $116 million by 2014. Currently he has raised more than $15 million to support 30 in-situ projects in 35 countries throughout the developing world.
SARDI Director Science Partnerships Professor Simon Maddocks said that given South Australia has one of the most significant pasture collections in the world, it is important Australia works internationally to continue to secure and exchange germplasm for our benefit as well as for the benefit of other countries.
“As we have collected much seed from other parts of the world to benefit our production systems so too we have an obligation to ensure that this material is available to other countries including the countries of origin, many of which are under-developed nations, to support their own productivity gains,” he said.
“That’s what the treaty is all about – making sure that a defined framework exists to facilitate sharing seed around the world.”