Conservation and Sustainable Utilisation of Plant Genetic Resources
Ex situ conservation, in situ conservation and on farm management methods are complementary options to preserve the diversity of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. Ex situ conservation is conducted by genebanks and botanical gardens. After reunification of East and West Germany the collections in the major genebanks at the Federal Centre for Breeding Research on Cultivated Plants (BAZ) in Braunschweig and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben had been reorganised. The three Federal research centres which dealt with plants were merged at January 1st 2008. Its new name is Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants - Julius Kuehn Institute (JKI).
Currently, the IPK runs ex situ collections at three locations and the JKI for fruits and grapevine at two locations. In addition, the JKI coordinates the German Genebank for Fruit Crops. Presently, the German Genebank for Fruit Crops has been established with the foundation of genebank networks for cherry and strawberry.
There are also a number of special collections - kept primarily by Bundeslaender and communal institutions including 95 botanical gardens. The latter conserve over 300,000 accessions of plant genetic resources including some of importance for agriculture and horticulture. Work in botanical gardens focuses on global species diversity first of all for research and training purposes, while the genebanks give priority to intraspecific variability of crop species.
In situ conservation is defined as the conservation of ecosystems and natural habitats and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings and, in the case of domesticated or cultivated species, in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties. Traditionally, in situ protection and conservation is a priority activity of nature conservation. Species remain exposed to evolutionary processes within their ecosystems. This ensures natural selection and the adjustment to changing environmental conditions. In the particular case of on farm management, landraces continue to evolve, influenced by natural selection as well as by selection pressures imposed by farmers and gardener, thus providing opportunities for continuous local crop adaptation and improvement.