|SPORE Bulletin of the CTA No. 38 (CTA Spore, 1992, 16 p.)|
The International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR) is an international scientific-organization under the aegis of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and established by them in 1974. The basic function of IBPGR is to advance the conservation and use of plant genetic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.
In many countries, IBPGR has encouraged the establishment of genetic resources programmes where none previously existed. It has raised general awareness of the issues related to genetic resources, which in turn has stimulated the demand for training and research, for technical publications, and for scientific assistance to national plant genetic resources programmes.
Since 1974, IBPGR has funded the training of 1700 scientists and technicians throughout the world in all aspects of genetic resources work, from collecting and seed physiology to database management. The institute has been involved in the collecting of 200,000 samples of crops in 120 countries. In the area of research, priority is given to solving those problems which are identified by national programmes as posing significant constraints to their activities. Retention of diversity in collections, conservation technology and plant health are major topics, as is work on wild relatives of crops and on forest genetic resources which involves research on in situ conservation.
In the field of information technology, computerized databases covering a wide range of topics have been developed by IBPGR and are used extensively in programme planning. These databases include information on national genetic resources programmes, ex situ germplasm collections worldwide, and germplasm collecting carried out with IBPGR support.
Good documentation as a means of fostering germplasm management, exchange and utilization has been a priority of the institute. The documentation programme has developed descriptor lists to promote the standard description of accessions and the storage of germplasm data in an exchangeable format. To assist genebanks in establishing their own documentation procedures, IBPGR has provided its expertise as well as computer hardware and software to developing countries where appropriate. A current project, in collaboration with Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), is producing a training manual to help national programmes improve their documentation.
In October 1991 representatives of the governments of Kenya, China, Switzerland, Denmark and Italy signed an agreement to establish an international institute for the conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources. It is anticipated that the new institute, to be called the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI), will take over the duties of IBPGR (which is attached to FAO) late in 1992. A new 10 year strategic plan spells out four major objectives which will form the basis of IPGRI's programme of activities.
First, the institute will assess and meet their needs for the conservation of plant genetic resources and to strengthen links to users. Secondly, it will build international collaboration in the conservation and use of plant genetic resources, mainly through the encouragement of networks on both a crop and geographical basis. Thirdly, it will work to develop and promote improved strategies and technologies for the conservation of plant genetic resources; and finally, the institute will provide an information service to inform the world's genetic resources community of both practical and scientific developments in the field.
International Board for Plant Genetic Resources, Via delle Sette Chiese 142 00145 Rome, ITALY