Genesys – Gateway to Plant Genetic Resources

Genesys is a newly developed plant genetic resources portal that gives breeders and researchers a single access point to information of about a third of the world‘s genebank accessions.  See below an article about Genesys, transcribed from Plant Breeding News, an electronic newsletter of applied plant breeding sponsored by FAO and Cornell University‘s Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics.

Test new genetic resources portal: contribute to its evolution

Bioversity International, a leading organization dedicated to agricultural biodiversity research, recognizes that access to information is vital if breeders are to identify those samples of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (PGRFA) which will be of most immediate use to them in addressing food insecurity.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, about 7.4 million accessions are currently being stored in more than 1700 genebanks around the world. Add to this an undetermined number of breeders´ lines and all the genetic variation occurring in situ, and it becomes obvious that information describing the characteristics of all this germplasm is the key to its access and use. Finding that information more efficiently and easily means that breeders can address production constraints and the challenges of a changing climate more effectively to help farmers who need to produce more with less.

Genesys is a plant genetic resources portal that gives breeders and researchers a single access point to information of about a third of the world´s genebank accessions. These include those in the international collections managed by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR), the United States Department of Agriculture´s (USDA) National Plant Germplasm System and the European Plant Genetic Resources Search Catalogue (EURISCO). Genesys adds value to these accessions by providing more than 11 million records about phenotypic characteristics in order to help breeders find the genetic variation needed by the world´s farmers. It also adds 19 environmental parameters to the 625,000 of these accessions that are geo-referenced . more than 11 million additional pieces of information.

Users can quickly build custom queries across all data types. For example, using Genesys, with about 15 mouse clicks and six keystrokes, a plant breeder can identify all of the red-grained wheat accessions with resistance to stem rust originating from areas in Afghanistan with an annual precipitation of between 150 and 350 mm.

In consultation with data providers, breeders and researchers, Genesys has been designed with the user in mind. An International Steering Committee (ISC) guided the development of Genesys. It consulted the user community and information technology experts to provide breeders with the functionality they require. With Genesys, both data providers and breeders benefit from being part of a larger system, giving their work and institutions global visibility.

The ongoing success of Genesys will depend largely on the sharing of information, gathered in the normal course of their work, among genebanks and researchers, including breeders.

“What we have demonstrated with Genesys is the proof of concept,” says Michael Mackay, the project leader.  “It contains a lot of data and demonstrates how easy it can be for breeders and other plant improvement scientists to find and request the particular genetic variation they seek. A lot more needs to be done, however, and this will depend on the users . especially genebanks and breeders . who gather the information that adds value to PGRFA.

Genesys will only reach its full potential if it is embraced by communities of PGRFA users to share their information Anyone can make a contribution or suggestion to how Genesys evolves by simply going to the portal at http://www.genesys-pgr.org and clicking on the . “Comments and Feedback” button at the lower right on most Genesys pages. Please complete the five question online survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/5YTFX85 after giving Genesys a test.

Genesys is an initiative by Bioversity International in partnership with the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and with generous support from the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

From:  Plant Breeding News  Edition 220 – 31 January 2011

Click here to access the Genesys Portal.

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