According to the recently released Second Report on the State of the World’s PGRFA, the number of genebanks worldwide has reached nearly 1700. These genebanks store millions of germplasm samples that need to be properly managed.

The people who take care of these samples — genebank managers, technicians and conservationists —now have a new resource to help them with this important task. 

The System-wide Genetic Resources Programme (SGRP) of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has developed the Crop Genebank Knowledge Base (CGKB): the first online resource for genebank managers and conservationists, funded by the World Bank, provides in one place easy access to crop specific knowledge and best practices for germplasm management and a vast collection of publications and training manuals.

Nine crops – banana, barley, cassava, chickpea, forage grasses and legumes, maize, rice, wheat – are already featured in detail, guiding through all steps of their conservation in a genebank. In addition specific regeneration guidelines are provided for 22 crops. These crop-specific best practices and relevant information have been compiled by genebank experts of the CGIAR centres and national genebanks world-wide and peer-reviewed by crop experts.

In addition to best practices on crops, the Knowledge Base features general conservation procedures for genebanks and a wealth of information on germplasm management strategies including, for example, decision support tools, maintenance of genetic integrity, performance indicators, policies and legal instruments, quality control and risk management, and safe transfer of germplasm and other specialized materials.

Users — including educators, trainers and students — will find the learning resources section useful as it provides access to a one-stop library with an extensive selection of publications, guidebooks, training manuals, photos, videos, a glossary, and other learning resources. Indeed the whole web site can be used as self-learning tool. A recent international genebank management course held in Korea successfully used the Knowledge Base to organize a hands-on training workshop.

The web site includes multimedia tools such as flipbooks, video clips and images and has a Flickr photostream and a You Tube channel. Collaboration tools such as a Wiki, comment boxes on nearly all pages, and a blog encourage participation and communication among users.  An online form is also provided for curators and conservationists to upload contributions to crop specific best practices.

SGRP welcomes new contributors and collaborators to help enrich and expand the Knowledge Base.  Best practices for other crops, new management procedures and protocols such as cryopreservation, a global collection of descriptor lists and help with translation of the Knowledge Base to other languages are just a few examples of how the genebank community can participate.