Gene bank

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The active gene bank of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Patancheru, India. ICRISAT active genebank.jpg
The active gene bank of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in Patancheru, India.

Gene banks are a type of biorepository that preserves genetic material. For plants, this is done by in vitro storage, freezing cuttings from the plant, or stocking the seeds (e.g. in a seedbank). For animals, this is done by the freezing of sperm and eggs in zoological freezers until further need. With corals, fragments are taken and stored in water tanks under controlled conditions. [1] Genetic material in a 'gene bank' is preserved in a variety of ways, such as freezing at -196° Celsius in liquid nitrogen, being placed in artificial ecosystems, and put in controlled nutrient mediums.


Accession is the common term given to an individual sample in a gene bank, such as a distinct species or variety.

In plants, it is possible to unfreeze the material and propagate it. However, in animals, a living female is required for artificial insemination. While it is often difficult to use frozen animal sperm and eggs, there are many examples of it being done successfully.

In an effort to conserve agricultural biodiversity, gene banks are used to store and conserve the plant genetic resources of major crop plants and their crop wild relatives. There are many gene banks all over the world, with the Svalbard Global Seed Vault being considered the most famous one. [2]

The database of the largest gene banks in the world can be queried via a common website, Genesys. A number of global gene banks are coordinated by the CGIAR Genebank Platform

Types of gene banks

Seed bank

A seed bank preserves dried seeds by storing them at a very low temperature. Spores and pteridophytes are conserved in seed banks, but other seedless plants, such as tuber crops, cannot be preserved this way.[ citation needed ] The largest seed bank in world is the Millennium Seed Bank housed at the Wellcome Trust Millennium Building (WTMB), located in the grounds of Wakehurst Place in West Sussex, near London. [3]

Beans stored at a seed vault Beans in hand, gene bank.jpg
Beans stored at a seed vault

In vitro bank

In this technique, buds, protocorm and meristematic cells are preserved through particular light and temperature arrangements in a nutrient medium, which is either jellified or in liquid form. This technique is used to preserve seedless plants and plants that reproduce asexually or that require preservation as clones such as commercial cultivars. [4]


In this technique, a seed or embryo is preserved at very low temperatures. It is usually preserved in liquid nitrogen at -196 °C. This is helpful for the conservation of species facing extinction. [5] Cryobanks are utilized for the cryoconservation of animal genetic resources [6]

USDA cryopreservation gene bank Cryopreservation USDA Gene Bank.jpg
USDA cryopreservation gene bank

Storage of pollen

This is a method in which pollen grains are stored. Using this technique, plants with one set of chromosomes can be made. The pollen is stored in liquid nitrogen. This method is useful for crossbreeding.

Field gene bank

This is a method of planting plants for the conservation of genes. For this purpose, an ecosystem is created artificially. Through this method, one can compare the differences among plants of different species and can study them in detail. It needs more land, adequate soil, weather, etc. Germplasm of important crops are conserved through this method. 42,000 varieties of rice are conserved in the Central Rice Research Institute in Orissa.

Field gene bank in Malaysia Field gene bank of Garcinia mangostana.JPG
Field gene bank in Malaysia

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Seed bank</span> Backup seed storage

A seed bank stores seeds to preserve genetic diversity; hence it is a type of gene bank. There are many reasons to store seeds. One is to preserve the genes that plant breeders need to increase yield, disease resistance, drought tolerance, nutritional quality, taste, etc. of crops. Another is to forestall loss of genetic diversity in rare or imperiled plant species in an effort to conserve biodiversity ex situ. Many plants that were used centuries ago by humans are used less frequently now; seed banks offer a way to preserve that historical and cultural value. Collections of seeds stored at constant low temperature and low moisture are guarded against loss of genetic resources that are otherwise maintained in situ or in field collections. These alternative "living" collections can be damaged by natural disasters, outbreaks of disease, or war. Seed banks are considered seed libraries, containing valuable information about evolved strategies to combat plant stress, and can be used to create genetically modified versions of existing seeds. The work of seed banks often span decades and even centuries. Most seed banks are publicly funded and seeds are usually available for research that benefits the public.

<i>Ex situ</i> conservation Preservation of plants or animals outside their natural habitats

Ex situ conservation literally means, "off-site conservation". It is the process of protecting an endangered species, variety or breed, of plant or animal outside its natural habitat; for example, by removing part of the population from a threatened habitat and placing it in a new location, an artificial environment which is similar to the natural habitat of the respective animal and within the care of humans, example are zoological parks and wildlife safaris. The degree to which humans control or modify the natural dynamics of the managed population varies widely, and this may include alteration of living environments, reproductive patterns, access to resources, and protection from predation and mortality. Ex situ management can occur within or outside a species' natural geographic range. Individuals maintained ex situ exist outside an ecological niche. This means that they are not under the same selection pressures as wild populations, and they may undergo artificial selection if maintained ex situ for multiple generations.

In-situ conservation is the on-site conservation or the conservation of genetic resources in natural populations of plant or animal species, such as forest genetic resources in natural populations of Teagan species. This process protects the inhabitants and ensures the sustainability of the environment and ecosystem.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Agricultural biodiversity</span>

Agricultural biodiversity or agrobiodiversity is a subset of general biodiversity pertaining to agriculture. It can be defined as "the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels that sustain the ecosystem structures, functions and processes in and around production systems, and that provide food and non-food agricultural products.” It is managed by farmers, pastoralists, fishers and forest dwellers, agrobiodiversity provides stability, adaptability and resilience and constitutes a key element of the livelihood strategies of rural communities throughout the world. Agrobiodiversity is central to sustainable food systems and sustainable diets. The use of agricultural biodiversity can contribute to food security, nutrition security, and livelihood security, and it is critical for climate adaptation and climate mitigation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Germplasm</span>

Germplasm are living genetic resources such as seeds or tissues that are maintained for the purpose of animal and plant breeding, preservation, and other research uses. These resources may take the form of seed collections stored in seed banks, trees growing in nurseries, animal breeding lines maintained in animal breeding programs or gene banks, etc. Germplasm collections can range from collections of wild species to elite, domesticated breeding lines that have undergone extensive human selection. Germplasm collection is important for the maintenance of biological diversity and food security.

A cryoprotectant is a substance used to protect biological tissue from freezing damage. Arctic and Antarctic insects, fish and amphibians create cryoprotectants in their bodies to minimize freezing damage during cold winter periods. Cryoprotectants are also used to preserve living materials in the study of biology and to preserve food products.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Svalbard Global Seed Vault</span> Globally accessible seed bank on Spitsbergen, Svalbard, Norway

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure backup facility for the world's crop diversity on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago. The Seed Vault provides long-term storage of duplicates of seeds conserved in genebanks around the world. This provides security of the world's food supply against the loss of seeds in genebanks due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts, war, sabotage, disease and natural disasters. The Seed Vault is managed under terms spelled out in a tripartite agreement among the Norwegian government, the Crop Trust, and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crop Trust</span>

The Crop Trust, officially known as the Global Crop Diversity Trust, is an international nonprofit organization with a secretariat in Bonn, Germany. Its mission is to conserve and make available the world's crop diversity for food security.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bioversity International</span>

Bioversity International is a global research-for-development organization that delivers scientific evidence, management practices and policy options to use and safeguard agricultural biodiversity to attain global food and nutrition security, working with partners in low-income countries in different regions where agricultural biodiversity can contribute to improved nutrition, resilience, productivity and climate change adaptation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cryopreservation</span> Process to preserve biological matter

Cryopreservation or cryoconservation is a process where biological material - cells, tissues, or organs - are frozen to preserve the material for an extended period of time. At low temperatures any cell metabolism which might cause damage to the biological material in question is effectively stopped. Cryopreservation is an effective way to transport biological samples over long distances, store samples for prolonged periods of time, and create a bank of samples for users. Molecules, referred to as cryoprotective agents (CPAs), are added to reduce the osmotic shock and physical stresses cells undergo in the freezing process. Some cryoprotective agents used in research are inspired by plants and animals in nature that have unique cold tolerance to survive harsh winters, including: trees, wood frogs, and tardigrades.

Crop diversity or crop biodiversity is the variety and variability of crops, plants used in agriculture, including their genetic and phenotypic characteristics. It is a subset of and a specific element of agricultural biodiversity. Over the past 50 years, there has been a major decline in two components of crop diversity; genetic diversity within each crop and the number of species commonly grown.

The World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg), previously known as the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC), is an international, nonprofit institute for vegetable research and development. It was founded in 1971 in Shanhua, southern Taiwan, by the Asian Development Bank, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand, the United States and South Vietnam.

Genesys is an online, global portal about plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. It is a gateway from which germplasm accessions from gene banks around the world can be easily found and ordered.

John Trevor Williams was a British plant geneticist who was instrumental in the creation of plant gene banks.

The Nordic Genetic Resource Center is a plant, farm animal and forest conservation, gene resource guardian, and sustainable use organization under and primarily financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers, and is headquartered in Alnarp, near Malmö, in southern Sweden. NordGen's primary mission is "securing the broad diversity of genetic resources linked to food and agriculture" through "conservation and sustainable use, solid documentation and information work and international agreements".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cryoconservation of animal genetic resources</span>

Cryoconservation of animal genetic resources is a strategy wherein samples of animal genetic materials are preserved cryogenically.

The Australian Grains Genebank (AGG) is a national center for storing genetic material for plant breeding and research. The Genebank is in a collaboration with the Australian Seed Bank Partnership on an Australian Crop Wild Relatives project. It is located at Grains Innovation Park, in Horsham, Victoria, Australia.

Plant genetic resources describe the variability within plants that comes from human and natural selection over millennia. Their intrinsic value mainly concerns agricultural crops.

Genetic resources means genetic material of actual or potential value where genetic material means any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity... Genetic resources thus refer to the part of genetic diversity that has or could have practical use, such as in plant breeding. The term was introduced by Otto Frankel and Erna Bennett for a technical conference on the exploration, utilization and conservation of plant genetic resources, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Biological Program (IBP), held in Rome, Italy, 18–26 September 1967.

Plant cryopreservation is a genetic resource conservation strategy that allows plant material, such as seeds, pollen, shoot tips or dormant buds to be stored indefinitely in liquid nitrogen. After thawing, these genetic resources can be regenerated into plants and used on the field. While this cryopreservation conservation strategy can be used on all plants, it is often only used under certain circumstances: 1) crops with recalcitrant seeds e.g. avocado, coconut 2) seedless crops such as cultivated banana and plantains or 3) crops that are clonally propagated such as cassava, sweet potato.


  1. "青汁と口臭とサプリメントと運動". Retrieved 1 March 2017.
  2. On practical and theoretical differences between a storage and a gene bank, see Nicole C. Karafyllis (ed.): Theorien der Lebendsammlung. Pflanzen, Mikroben und Tiere als Biofakte in Genbanken (in German), Freiburg: Karl Alber 2018 (Lebenswissenschaften im Dialog Vol. 25) ISBN   978-3-495-48975-8
  3. Drori, Jonathan (May 2009). "Why we're storing billions of seeds". TED2009. TED. Archived from the original on 8 December 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  4. "In vitro bank". Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  5. "Cryo bank". CGIAR Genetic Resources Systems: Phase 2. Collective Action for the Rehabilitation of Global Public Goods. Retrieved 23 January 2012.
  6. ’’Cryoconservation of Animal Genetic Resources.’ ‘Rep. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2012. FAO Animal Production and Health Guidelines No. 12. Print.