Finding Vegetable PGR

There are many genebanks in the world that keep vegetable collections. But knowing this, does not help you as a user! You probably need information about the material that the genebanks conserve, and you need to know if the genebank is able to send material to a requester. This is not always the case, only a limited number of genebanks in the world can provide you (information about) the material you wish. This portal helps you finding your way through the thickets.

The genebank system


There is no good overview of all germplasm collections in the world. An attempt has been made by the FAO, that created the 'World Information and Early Warning System (WIEWS)'. In addition to presenting interesting reading material about PGR conservation, it offers a database of all PGR collections in the world that are known to WIEWS. It provides options to search this database and, for example, generate a list with all collections of a genus or species included in WIEWS. It can serve as a starting point of your search, but for that you first need to deal with the WIEWS interface. (On the homepage, select 'PGR' in the top menu option 'Germplasm', enter the genus and check the 'starts with' box, and click the 'Report' button, and the 'Generate report' button in the pop-up screen, and be patient...)


When describing the genebanks of the world, one has to start with the largest, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault , the back-up seed vault where since 2008 all genebanks of the world can store a safety backup of their collections in the permafrost of the Norwegian island. It is a facility providing security to the PGR conservation community, a 'Doomsday Vault', but it is not a direct source of material for PGR users.

International Centres: CGIAR / AVRDC

Major genebanks have been created by the centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), 'a global partnership that unites organisations engaged in research for sustainable development with the funders of this work' as the CGIAR describes itself. Ten of the research institutes organised in the CGIAR manage PGR collections with over 700,000 accessions that are exceedingly rich in farmers’ varieties. These collections focus on staple crops and are generally well managed and readily available, but hardly include vegetable crops. The vegetables that can be found in the CGIAR collections are beans (CIAT), potato and sweet potato (CIP) and legumes (ICARDA, ICRISAT and IITA). These collections can sometimes be accessed via the institute website. However, they can all be found in Genesys , the new database that will ultimately give access to all the word's PGR collections, and currently holds the information of over two million accessions maintained by the CGIAR, USDA and in European national collections.

Associated to the CGIAR is the AVRDC - The World Vegetable Center (formerly know as the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center). Its collection harbours over 52,000 genebank accessions representing a wide variety of vegetables, the most important being Allium, Brassica, pepper, tomato, eggplant, soybean and several other legumes. The collection can be searched via Genesys, but via their own website it is possible to also search the advanced breeding materials. AVRDC charges handing fees ($6 to $50 depending on the type of organisation and type of material).

National Genebanks

The list of national genebanks is very large. One of the largest and best accessible is the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) of the USA. Its over 500,000 accessions, including vegetables, which can be searched trough Genesys, but better via their own system: GRIN . GRIN provides a wealth of associate information, including characterisation and evaluation data and taxonomic information. Plant Gene Resources of Canada (PGRC) has it's own, smaller version of GRIN that gives access to its over 100,000 accessions, also including many vegetables.

The collections of the European national genebanks can be searched via EURISCO , with over one million accessions. The information in EURISCO can also be accessed via Genesys . Several genebanks have their own website with additional functionalities, such as searching characterisation/evaluation information, on-line ordering, searching pictures, etc. See for example NordGen (for the Nordic countries), IPK (Germany), CRI (Czech Republic) and CGN (The Netherlands).

The collections of most national genebanks outside Europe and North America are more difficult to access, mostly because the information is not electronically accessible, not offered in the English language, or not readily available to foreign users. Some of the national genebanks that do not offer information in the English language might offer genetic resources, but you wil have to approach the contact persons with your queries. An example is the Chinese genebank operated by the Chinese Academy for Agricultural Sciences, that offers a small part of its website in English.

Obviously there are exceptions. One of the accessible national genebanks outside Europe and North America is the genebank of Japan maintained by NIAS . It lists over 200,000 accessions, of which over seven thousand vegetables of various species. NIAS charges handing fees (depending on type and amount of material; a single accession would cost about $80).


A specific coordination of the conservation of plant genetic resources of vegetables in genebanks is lacking.

At a global level, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture , offer general information about conservation efforts, but no details on access to collections. Under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) was adoptd. This SMTA is a standrad under which some genebanks also make their vegetable genetic resources available (see "Requesting PGR").

At the European level, the European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR) has the aim to coordinate genebank activities via its networks and working groups. One of the networks is the Vegetables Network , that include working groups on Allium, Brassica, cucurbits, leafy vegetables, Solanaceae and umbellifer crops. ECPGR can give you an idea of the activities in the respective crops, but will not help you in accessing the material. Another activity of ECPGR might help you: EURISCO , an inventory of the PGR conserved ex situ in Europe.

Finally, at the national level, each country has it's own approach. An overview of the national activities in the field of PGR conservation is given in the Second Report on the State of the World’s Plant Genetic Resources , published in 2010 by the FAO. This impressive document, that can also be read on-line, includes 'country reports' of 155 countries, describing the PGR conservation status and activities in these countries.


We are very interested in your experiences with accessing genetic resources of vegetable crops and would highly appreciate your feedback.