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Crop and Horticultural crops biodiversity Directorate

Background

Ethiopia is one of the eight Vavilovian centers of diversity or one of the twelve mega-centers of biodiversity. The country’s enormous wealth in crop genetic resources is attributed to its macro and micro climatic variability, altitudinal variation, variation in physio-geographic features and diverse farming systems. The country also has vast cultural diversity, which have also contributed for the existing crop genetic resource diversity and associated community indigenous knowledge and innovations.

Ethiopia is a centre of origin for many cultivated plants such as tef (Eragrostis tef), noug (Guizotia abyssinica), Ethiopian mustard (Brassica carinata), enset (Ensete ventricosum), anchote (Coccinia abyssinica), Ethiopian potato (Plectranthus edulis)  and coffee (Coffea arabica). The country is also a centre of diversity for crop plants such as durum wheat (Triticum turgidum var. durum), barley (Hordeum vulgare), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), pea (Pisum sativum), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), chickpea (Cicer arietinum), and lentil (Lens culinaris).

It is generally recognized that genetic diversity of crops is essential for sustainable agricultural production and food security. Genetic diversity of crops can increase productivity, food security, and economic returns, make farming systems more stable and sustainable, contribute to sustainable intensification and reduce dependency on external inputs. Genetic diversity in crops is also required to sustain genetic improvement for polygenic traits, such as yield. Maintaining diversity within agricultural systems makes the system more resilient to climate induced events or other shocks. The state of crop diversity is affected by direct and indirect pressures such as demographic change (population pressure), displacement of local varieties by other crops /improved varities, shift to market oriented crop production, pests and disease, drought and invasive alien species. Hence they need to be conserved and put to use.

Since the establishment of the Institute in 1976, systematic crop germplasm exploration, collection and conservation activities have been undertaken. Presently the Crop and Horticulture Biodiversity Directorate is one of the core directorates in the Ethiopian Biodiversity Institute which deals with the conservation and sustainable utilization of crop and horticulture genetic resources. These resources include cereals, pulses, oil crops, root and tuber crops, spices, stimulates, fruits, flowers, vegetables and industrial crops. These crops contribute significantly for food and lively security of the people.

Duties and responsibilities

  1. Explore and collect field and horticultural crop genetic resources
  2. Conserve the country’s crop genetic resources using appropriate conservation methods
  3. Characterize and evaluate field and horticultural crops to enhance their utilization and conservation
  4. Establish and managing new field genebank and on farm conservation sites for effective conservation of crop genetic resources
  5. Distribute crop and horticulture germplasm to different users
  6. Restore farmers’ varieties in their original collection areas
  7. Distribute conserved crop genetic resources to users (researchers, breeders, farmers)
  8. Conduct conservation based research
  9. Conduct awareness raising on crop diversity, their conservation and use
  10. Collect and document the indigenous knowledge associated with use and management of farmers’ varieties
  11. Study the status and trends of the country’s crop biodiversity

The Directorate is divided in to four case teams. These are: Genebank case team, Characterization and evaluation case team, On-farm conservation and community seed bank case team, and Field genebank case team.

Genebank case team

Achievements 

  • A total of 76802 accessions belonging to 62 species have been collected and conserved in the cold rooms and field genebank.
  • About 167, 000 accessions of different plant species distributed to different users.

Facilities

  • Cold rooms (Four cold rooms -10 ºC capacity of nearly 350 m3, One cold room +4 ºC with a capacity of 50 m3), seed processing, drying, germination testing facilities.

Future plan

  • Duplicate conserved seeds in duplicate genebank, establishes core collection,

Physical verification of germplasm in genebank and inventory, distribute genetic materials with known traits, and standardize the genebank.

Characterization and evaluation case team

Achievements

  • 7250 accessions have been characterized using morphological traits.
  • More than 3000 accessions have been analysed for nutrition content.

Facilities

  • Nutrition, Biochemical and seed health testing laboratories.

Future plan

  • Align the characterization data with the genebank database, evaluate conserved genetic materials for desirable traits, promote genetic resources with desirable traits, modernize the nutrition, molecular and seed health laboratories

On farm conservation and community seed bank case team

Achievements

  • Twenty one on farm conservation sites and community seed banks have been established, and crop conservation associations are organized
  • Inventory and survey on the status of Farmer’s varieties have been conducted
  • Training to farmers and other stakeholder were conducted
  • Restoration of some conserved crop genetic resources have been conducted
  • Different endangered and locally adapted farmers varieties have been conserved on farm

Facilities

  • Community seed storing facilities

Future plan

  • Strengthen existing on farms sites and establish new ones, conduct participatory variety selection, enhance farmers varieties , document indigenous knowledge, Restore farmers varieties, create market linkage to selected crops,

Field genebank case team

The case team is mandated to undertake collection and conservation of horticultural genetic resources. Farmers often adopt new varieties and cease growing the varieties that they were used to grow and eventually lose these varieties. The wild species are also threatened with extinction as their habitats are destroyed by human activities. Hence, conservation and sustainable utilization of the available horticultural crops diversity is imperative supply raw materials for crop improvement programs and to ensure food and livelihood security at local and national level.

Many important horticultural crops produce recalcitrant seed or reproduce vegetatively. The field gene bank is one of the ex situ conservation facility where clonal materials and species with recalcitrant seed storage behavior are conserved as living collections. Germplasm conservation in field gene bank involves the collecting of germplasm from farmers’ field, home garden and wild and transferring and planting the collected germplasm in other site. In field gene banks the plant genetic resources are kept as live plants that undergo continuous growth and require continuous management. Planting and harvesting often carried out every season for the annual and biannual crops. Appropriate cultural practices are also applied in different growth stages of the crop. Plants are planted with proper field lay out and labels are placed to avoid mixing up of conserved accessions. Currently, four field gene banks established by the Ethiopian Biodiversity to conserve horticultural biodiversity.  Many root and tuber crops, Arabica coffee and spices are conserved are being conserved in field gene bank. Often, germplasm collection is prioritized on the basis of economic importance, genetic diversity, level of threats and endemicity.

Achievements

  • Four field gene banks were established in different parts of the country
  • 5469 Arabica coffee, 705 root and tuber crops and 348 spices are collected and conserved in the field gene bank
  • A number of accessions conserved has been distributed to various users
  • Inventory of species holding of field gene banks has been conducted

Service currently provided by the case team

  • Distribute conserved germplasm for users
  • Awareness raising
  • Joint germplasm collection with national research centers to link conservation with research

Choche field gene bank

Choche field gene bank is located in Oromia Regional State in Jimma Zone, Goma Woreda near Agaro town at approximately 1500 masl, at 7o54’ N and 36o39’ E. It has a total area of 21 hectares. The field gene bank was established three decades ago mainly for conserving coffee genetic resources of the country. Currently, however, 10 species of 5557 accessions of horticultural genetic resources are being conserved in the field gene bank.

 Bedesa field gene bank

Bedessa field gene bank was established in 2002 primarily for conserving Harar coffee genetic resources. The field gene bank is located in Oromia Regional State, West Harerghe Zone, Odda Buletum  Woreda near Bedessa town, at 8o53? N and 40o46? E. It has a total land area of 7.8 hectares. Currently, a total of 807 Harar coffee accessions are being conserved in the field gene bank. Further collection will also be conducted to address areas and farmers’ varieties that were not addressed in previous collection missions.

 Yayo field gene bank

Yayo field gene bank was established in 2015 to conserve the ever declining wild Arabica coffee genetic resources of the country. The field gene bank is located in Yayo woreda, Ilu Ababora zone of the Oromia Regional State. It has total land area of3.6 hectares. Currently, 350 plants of wild Arabica coffee collection are being conserved in the field gene bank. The field gene bank will be used to conserve wild Arabica coffee genetic resources of the country. Hence, future collection programs will target all areas that are believed to harbor wild Arabica coffee.

Angacha field gene bank

The field gene bank was established in 2013 in South Nation and Nationality People Region, Kembata Tembaro Zone Angacha wereda. The field genebank was mainly established the ever declining  diversity of  enset. The field genebank has a total land area of 2.08 ha. Currently more than  88 farmers mamed clones of enset are conserved. Additional clones will be collected and conserved from the areas that were not addressed in the previous collection missions.

Future plan

  • Strengthen existing field gene banks
  • Establish new field gene banks to conserve the declining horticultural genetic resources
  • Identify areas and crops that were not addressed in previous collection missions Document indigenous knowledge
  • Distribute conserved germplasm samples to users
  • Conduct awareness raising campaign
  • Produce catalogue and brochures
  • Conduct research on the conserved accessions

Research activities

Different research activities which contribute to efficient management and utilization of crop genetic resources have been carried by the directorate. The recent ones include:

Completed

  • Phenotypic characterization of some of the barley accessions of Ethiopia
  • Determination of storage behavior of Aframomum corrorima

On going

  • Evaluation of barley landraces for drought tolerance
  • Phenotypic characterization of some of wheat (Triticum) accessions of Ethiopia
  • Gliadin polymorphism in durum wheat collection
  • Phenotypic Characterization and Association between Agronomic Traits in Ethiopian Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moenc)
  • Characterization of nutrient Contents of single Line wheat
  • The Impact of rainfall variability and temperature stress on the production of wheat landrace: the case of Gimbichu Woreda, Oromiya region, Ethiopia
  • Impact of hydropriming and accelerated aging on germination capacity of coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.)

National Reports

The status of crop genetic resources has been documented in detail in:

  • Country reports on the State of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (2008, 2012)
  • National Reports to the Convention on Biological Diversity (2009, 2014)
1. Diversity in teff 2. Seed germination testing 3. Long term seed storage -10oC
4. Field genebank (coffee) 5. Community seed bank 6. Participatory variety selection
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