In 1985 the Genebank Project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishery started and Genetic Resources Center (GRC) was established as the central coordinating institute of Japan for the conservation of plants, micro-organisms and animals related to agriculture. DNA bank was added in 1993. GRC is now under the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO). Our genebank is called the NARO genebank.
NARO genebank conserve a total of 260,000 accessions of plants, micro-organisms and animals. About 1,000 genetic resources are collected every year by domestic and overseas explorations. We distribute around 12,000 accessions annually both domestically and abroad. The Genebank Project is conducted by the center bank and the sub-bank system. GRC is the center bank and regional research institutes work as sub-banks. Multiplication and evaluation are done in sub-banks. One more important part of the Genebank Project is the promotion of the database of GRC using Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Such information is available at the web site, including the information on passport data, evaluation as well as more general information on genetic resources. This ICT and highly computerized resource management system make us one of the most efficiently managed genebanks in the world.
GRC conducts basic researches relating to genetic resources in addition to the Genebank Project. A research project called “Plant Genetic Resources in Asia - Phase II” (PGRAsia-II) has started this year. Based on the collaborative research agreements between Japan and counterpart countries, we contribute the conservation and evaluation of Asian plant genetic resources. In the project, we put special emphasis on vegetable genetic resources in which domestic demands are becoming stronger. Ultra-low temperature storage in liquid nitrogen is used for the long-term conservation of microorganisms, reproductive cells of animals and some vegetatively propagated crops. We are trying to expand the applicable species range of this conservation technology.
Judging from the fact that most of the high yield rice varieties in Japan have been bred using foreign rice genetic resources, the international collaboration and exchange of genetic resources are becoming more and more important. Foreign materials are necessary for developing crop varieties with new traits, like pests and diseases resistances, abiotic stress resistances and so on to cope with global warming era. Even though new breeding methods have been invented, the importance of diverse genetic resources remains unchanged.
For the sustainable conservation of genetic resources, we need to maintain the present center and sub-bank system. Furthermore, it is necessary to develop new domestic and international collaborations with both the public and private sectors. We want to raise the value of our own genetic resources by collaborating with other countries in the world.
Director of Genetic Resources Center