Monday, 7 November 2016

Dr Nicolas Roux presents on genetic resources conservation

Thanks to Dr Nicolas Roux, Genetic Resources Group Leader from CGIAR for doing a talk today at ACIAR house on the work Bioversity International does on genetic resources.  Dr Roux has been working in genetics with Bioversity International since 2003; specialises in work with roots, tubers and bananas; and has a background in tropical fruits in Venezuela. He coordinates the Global Musa Genomics Consortium and the Global Musa Genetic Resources Network (MusaNet). He also oversees work done in cacao and coconut genetic resources conservation and use.

Dr Roux talked about two strategies: the Global Musa (banana) Strategy and Global Coconut Strategy on Genetic Resources. These strategies for are important for the conservation and use of these important Pacific food security crops. Research on coconut is vital to prevent diseases in PNG and Cote D’Voire. The work CGIAR is doing with banana biodiversity is also significant as currently 40% of banana production is based on the clone variety, Cavendish. This is a potential problem as reliance on one type of banana means greater vulnerability to banana diseases, such as Panama disease, which risks wiping them off our supermarket shelves. Bananas are the fourth most important crop in developing countries with 42% being grown in the Asian region. There is an urgent need to broaden the banana genetic base for improved food and nutrition security as there are millions of farmers and consumers around the world dependent on bananas.

General Manager Global Programs Mellissa Wood introduces Dr Roux at the presentation
Bananas are reproduced vegetatively and cannot be stored as seed. They are stored in-vitro (test tubes), which is a difficult, expensive and labour intensive exercise. A Global CyroVault for the long term storage of vegetatively propagated crops is being considered where plant tissue is preserved in liquid nitrogen as long-term storage, similar to the long-term storage provided by the Svalbard Global Seed Vault for seed crops on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen.  This CyroVault will also act as a hub for training and capacity building; and includes genes from potato, sweetpotato, taro, banana, cassava amongst many other plants.  There is still work to be done to assess the need for the Centre, compare potential locations for the Centre and work out a financial model and government requirements before the Centre will be in operation and ACIAR is pleased to be contributing to the funding of a feasibility study for such a facility.

Dr Nicolas Roux (CGIAR) with General Manager Global Programs Mellissa Wood (ACIAR)
The strategies presented by Dr Roux are needed to provide information and guidance for the strategic conservation and use of banana and coconut genebanks. We look forward to a future where there is a more diverse genepool that can promote ecosystem services such as resilience to pest and disease and the effects of climate change.

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