Moroccan wheat additions to the global genepool

by Jeremy Cherfas on March 29, 2012

There are times when the whole social media buzz conversation engagement thang is a bit overwhelming. Like today. I saw an item from FAOCrops on Facebook, which said “The gene pool of the Treaty gets 351 Moroccan wheat accessions from a benefit-sharing Fund project“. That’s interesting, I thought. It was attached to a photo, presumably of a Moroccan examining wheat, and offered to let me continue reading. Which I did. Now Facebook links can be very hard to access even if you’re already a member (and not everyone is), and indeed that link takes you to all FAOCrops’ photos. I’ve no idea how to link to just one of them. However, at the end of the extended photo caption is another link. That, alas, just takes you to a PDF of a letter to the Secretariat of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which contains very little truly interesting information beyond the details of the accessions. So here, to save you the frustration I felt, is a copy of the Facebook story:

The gene pool of the Treaty gets 351 Moroccan wheat accessions from a benefit-sharing Fund project

The global gene pool of the International Treaty received this week 351 new wheat accessions that have been evaluated during the life of a Benefit-sharing Fund project implemented in Morocco, as announced by the National Agriculture Research Institute of this country.

This is the first time that the Multilateral System is enlarged with material generated by a project of the Benefit-sharing Fund of the Treaty. In particular, the project helped in the evaluation of selected accessions held at INRA and the collection and evaluation of new landraces through a participatory process that joined the efforts of researchers and farmers.

The 195 durum wheat and 156 bread wheat accessions can now be shared through the Standard Material Transfer Agreement.

“For the first time since the entry into force of the International Treaty, this moment marks the completion of the full circle between the facilitated access mechanisms of the Treaty and the benefit-sharing under the Treaty’s Multilateral System and its Benefit-sharing Fund”, said Dr. Modibo Traoré, Assistant Director-General of the Agriculture and Consumer Protection of FAO.

“This work goes beyond regular conservation of genetic diversity”, said the Secretary of the International Treaty, Dr. Shakeel Bhatti, “as we know that some of this genetic material will contribute to the global efforts against the UG99, a fungus that attacks wheat and that has caused serious production losses in Africa and the Middle East for more than a decade”.

Detailed documentation and evaluation

Many of the collected varieties come from on-farm conservation and quite a large number of observations have been documented during the collection process such as yield, biomass, height, maturation rate, grain size or color.

During the collecting and evaluation missions, scientists also gathered information from farmers about local names, origins of seeds, any pre-sowing treatments, length of use, preferred characteristics, and any resistance or tolerance they had observed. In addition, scientists and farmers screened and selected the samples independently, and then compared their results in order to improve the quality of information generated by the project.

The material is conserved in the collection held by INRA and the Regional Agricultural Research Centre of Settat, in western Morocco. The Secretariat of the International Treaty has published the notification sent by INRA and detailed information on the accessions on its new website.

The Director of the National Research Institute has also informed the Secretary that the material belonging to Annex 1 crops of the International Treaty and held at the Moroccan Genebank is also incorporated in the Multilateral System and available under the Standard Material Transfer Agreement. The Moroccan Genebank conserves today 48 000 accessions, representing 91 genera of 403 different species.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dave Wood March 29, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Shouldn’t the Annex 1 samples from Morocco be in the Treaty automatically? Morocco has been a Treaty member since 2006.
By using the benefit-sharing fund in this way, FAO is close to paying countries for samples to go in the Treaty. I hope other Treaty countries don’t notice – it could be expensive.

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