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Plant Genetic Resources Program

RESEARCH FACILITIES

Plant Genetic Resources Institute hosts the sole National Genebank of Pakistan for conservation of plant genetic resources and six labs including germplasm exploration lab, seed preservation lab, in vitro conservation lab, germplasm evaluation lab, plant introduction and seed health lab and data management lab.The institute also has green houses and field area for conducting experiments.

The allied programs of the institute include National Herbarium Program and in vitro conservation and micropropagation program.

National Genebank of Pakistan:

National Genebank of Pakistan at Plant Genetic Resources Institute has two types of conservation facilities for the seed of orthodox crop species at low temperature and relative humidity. These facilities include active collection and base collection. These two types of collections complement each other. The seeds are stored at 10°C and 40 percent relative humidity in active collection and at 5°C and 40 percent relative humidity for base collection.

Germplasm Exploration Laboratory:

Plant exploration is the avenue to germplasm for crop improvement, which cannot be obtained by exchange. The spread of improved varieties has resulted in the loss of indigenous crop genetic diversity. Whereas, industrialization and urbanization has seriously damaged the natural environment of crop plants. Human population is rapidly eroding the reservoir of genetic diversity. Habitats are disappearing at an alarming rate as forests are cleared, roads and cities expand, grasslands are plowed, burned and overgrazed, land in inundated by lakes impounded by new dams and new lands are irrigated for increased production of modern cultivars. The face of the earth is changing at an accelerating and alarming rate; and as it changes, more genetic diversity is lost forever. The Plant Exploration Laboratory has organized more than hundred expeditions in different agro-ecological regions of Pakistan to collect the targeted plant species. The main emphasis is to collect the major crops and their wild relatives as these species are under threat.

Seed Preservation Laboratory:

Seed stock in the Genebank is periodically subjected to germination tests in Seed Preservation Laboratory for monitoring their viability and vigor. Studies are also conducted to find out most appropriate storage conditions for conservation of germplasm.  Physiological and biochemical studies are being undertaken to investigate the process of seed deterioration during storage.

   

In vitro Preservation Laboratory:

The in vitro conservation activities in PGRI are related to conservation of vegetatively propagated crops which cannot be conserved as seed either due to their heterogeneity or recalcitrant behavior. The emphasis is given on slow growth culturing techniques at lower temperature or the application of growth retardant in culture media. The major emphasis is being given on research to develop appropriate methods of conservation for sugarcane, sweet potato, apricot, grapes and banana. In vitro laboratory of PGRI has employed a variety of techniques for conservation of the germplasm of vegetatively propagated species namely grapes, peach, pear, sweet potato, banana and sugarcane that are economically high potential crops for sustainable development in agriculture. 

   

Evaluation Laboratory:

Germplasm evaluation is one of the key research activities in genebanks and genetic resources conservation institutes across the world. Without evaluation, utilization of germplasm in crop improvement is not possible. When Plant Genetic Resources Institute was established in 1993, considering the importance of germplasm evaluation, a modern state of the art Germplasm Evaluation Laboratory was also present in the institute. Since 1994, germplasm evaluation is a regular activity at the institute using agro-morphological, biochemical and molecular markers. The lab has evaluated more than half of the germplasm of cereals, minor cereals, legumes, vegetables, oilseed and medicinal plants, which are being utilized by national and international researchers. 

On the basis of detailed germplasm evaluation, selection of elite germplasm lines is made for utilization in crop improvement programs on the basis of user preferred characters like agronomic characters, quality traits, different uses of crop and resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses. Elite germplasm lines are being tested through outreach experimentations for utilization in crop improvement. Some crop varieties including NARC Kalonji, Dera Moth, Mash I, Mash II and Mash III have been developed using the elite germplasm lines.

Plant Introduction and Seed Health Laboratory:

The Plant Introduction and Seed Health Laboratory is charged with acquisition of exotic germplasm and indexing the health status of material stored in the Genebank. Avoiding contamination by pathogens and pests is essential in managing plant germplasm. In addition to imposing quarantine, it is also necessary to secure the vigor and longevity of stored seeds and avoid cross-infection during multiplication. Introduced germplasm as well as the conserved seed stocks are examined for contamination by the pathogens and pests. Indexing the health status helps in avoiding the spread of pathogens to new geographic regions. New seed borne pathogens especially viruses have been detected in the laboratory in the material even coming from international agricultural research centers. The Seed Health Laboratory also investigates the propagation methods to get healthy seeds from contaminated lots.

Plant Introduction and Seed Health Laboratory is maintaining locally collected as well as exotic medicinal and aromatic plants germplasm. Keeping in view, the status and potential of essential oil industry, facilities were established for the extraction of essential oil through steam and hydro-distillation process at small scale from mint germplasm. Essential oil extraction is being carried out from basil, rosemary, lavender, oregano, thyme, geranium and other medicinally important aromatic plants. Distillation unit (20L capacity) for the large scale extraction of essential oils and hydrolates is also working. Characterization of chemical constituents of essential oils is being carried out through TLC, GC/MS and HPLC in collaboration with different labs. Likewise, fungal pathogens are being continuously isolated by screening of germplasm preserved in the gene bank of PGRI. Essential oils of different medicinal plants were tested against the important pathogens.

Data Management Laboratory:

The information about crop germplasm conserved in the Genebank is compiled in database system. The management system of plant genetic resources information consists of three main areas including passport data, stock control data and evaluation data. The Data Management Laboratory maintains the genetic resources information and disseminates this information to the national and international stakeholders.

   

Clonal Repository

Clonal repository is field Genebank where genetic resources of clonally propagated crops like fruits are preserved as living plants. Plant Genetic Resources Institute maintains the clonal repository of more than three hundred accessions of fruit plants including grapes, guava, pomegranate, plum, peach, almond, pear, apple, apricot, fig, persimmon, citrus, pecan nut and walnut.

 

 

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