Gene bank copied for the EXPO Milano 2015
IPK Gatersleben at the German Pavilion
“Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” is the theme of EXPO 2015 in Milan. And if you want to know what innovative ideas and activities the German states are offering for producing enough healthy food for the world’s population, the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Gatersleben, Saxony-Anhalt, is a model example. That is why a copy of the IPK “gene bank” or crop bank will feature in the presentations at the German pavilion.
Minus 18 ‑ a temperature not reached all winter in Saxony-Anhalt. For the seed samples stored in the gene bank in Gatersleben, this is the ideal temperature for maintaining germinability over decades. Most seed samples are stored in sealed glass jars. Dr. Andreas Börner, head of the Resource Genetics and Reproduction research group, knows exactly where and in which of the walk-in mobile storage units to find specific seed samples, for example if a few grains are to be removed, packaged in small bags and sent off across the world.
The gene bank in Gatersleben receives around 30,000 enquiries each year. “Most come from researchers and breeders working on exactly the question at the centre of EXPO,” says Dr. Sabine Odparlik. She sits on the Institute’s management board and is responsible for management and public relations. “Global climate change is a great challenge. If we are to feed the global population, we need food crops that are resistant to drought and resistant to flooding ‑ if possible both ‑ and are therefore able to survive extreme weather.” Dr. Odparlik explains that the plants must be able to feed themselves even more efficiently but also provide a high yield.
Exactly 151,002 samples of 3,212 species and 776 genuses of grain, feed and vegetable crops, potatoes, pulses, medicinal plants and herbs are stored in the “Genbank” of the IPK. Since the 1920s, the gene bank has collected the seeds of crop plants, most from the temperate zone. The Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research was established in 1943 and moved into its current site in Gatersleben, by Quedlinburg, in 1945. The Institute’s gene bank is now one of the largest of its kind in the world.
“We protect species diversity, but we are not a museum,” stresses Sabine Odparlik.
The old varieties are far too low in yield for today’s needs. However, they have characteristics that have been lost in new breeds and could come in useful again in the future ‑ for example following changes in the climate.
Read here, how the IPK Gatersleben will give visitors at the EXPO Milano 2015 a realistic impression of their real crop bank
Since 1 May and 31 October Saxony-Anhalt showcases at the world exhibition EXPO Milano 2015 as a centre of innovation of plant research. Saxony-Anhalt will present itself as an innovative and sustainable region in the heart of Germany, rich in culture and with much to see and experience. Visitors can discover a cross-section of this diverse state, as an attractive place for business, research and tourism. The cultural highlight in Saxony-Anhalt’s activities will be the “federal state days” from 27 to 31 May.
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