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What is new and noteworthy in the Crop Genebank Knowledge Base?

A lot is happening in the last few weeks and we want to share these news to keep you in the loop of the ongoing work. The site is growing all the time!

The site is getting its pages fully uploaded. The 9th crop, cassava is going to be uploaded soon!

New pages are being prepared to include some more relevant additional results of the GPG2 project (the project that provided the initial funds to establish this site). They will be placed under the ‘management procedures’ and will disseminate strategy documents about genetic resource collections of:

  • Genetic stocks
  • Non-plant taxa (microbial, fungal, insect and nematode)
  • Neglected and underutilized species

And the great news about the site expanding plans is that we have just started translating the crop pages into Spanish! This is the first (and hopefully not the last!) extra language we are introducing. They will become public very soon. The first one will be maize!

Please let us know if you would like to participate translating it into your native language in your country!

This site belongs to all of us that work within and across genebanks, so help us to improve it and making it better! Send us your comments and suggestions!

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Crop genebank web reaches major milestones

End of the month, time for updates.

Last week we had the pleasure to look through the various pages of this site and see the end of the tunnel! All planned pages are completed with the initial information we envisaged. Some will still have new links uploaded soon, when relevant information is available and published elsewhere. All the other pages are now finalized (but they should be updated regularly). We have worked hard with so many collaborators and contributors, but we are finally getting there. It was a monumental task, that kept many of us working often until late, week and weekends, but well worth! It is very rewarding seeing things taking shape. However we should not forget that we also have to continue working hard to maintain the quality of what we developed as well as expanding it when opportunity arises. A great thank you to all that made this site possible and contributed to enrich its content, navigation and layout.

This week we had the final review of the project that made this site possible. We had a great opportunity to show the content and potential benefits of this sharing platform that was dully appreciated.

This week we also had a collective paper entitled “Sharing knowledge on best practices to manage crop genebanks” oraly presented in the IAALD XIIIth World Congress on Scientific and Technical Information and Rural Development, from 26-29 April 2010 in Montpellier, France. The paper highlighted our experience of working together, the challenges we faced and the lessons learned and ways to move forward to keep the momentum.  

Earlier this month we also finished an amazing number of small technical movies that have been linked through the site. They are also available in the Youtube channel:

This was a great opportunity of producing excellent and practical visual training materials with existing local resources.   

This knowledge base is already expanding before being formally finished. This is a great example of usefulness and relevance.

 We have now a good sense of responsibility and ownership of a good product that should keep us together, continuing working towards a common goal.

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End of the year message

This message is posted a bit late… It was supposed to have been posted in December. Today is the last day of January and that prompt me to rush and post it before it is too late!

This is the result of the end of the year workload that I am sure many of you have experienced.

We would like to thank all of you that contributed to the website with text, comments, revisions, visual aids (photos, videos) and general support to our work. Many of you have worked often day and night, week days and weekends to finalize urgent taks and we are grateful for such dedication and commitment.

We are finishing the first phase of our work, the upload of all the major components of the website. Some work will be finished in January 2010 and the rest by the end of March 2010.

Some of the initial coordinators and collaborators have been promoted, shifted positions and moved to new jobs, passing most of the work to colleagues and new collaborators. This shows that this knowledge base was built in a flexible way that can grow and expand.

The end of the year meeting with all the GPG2 (the WB project that financed this work) activity leaders (most active contributors of this website) showed that the website is a valuable tool to disseminate and share knowledge and many activities not initially planned to be included are now wishing to display their results within our pages. We are now adding some new menus into the Management Strategies.

The seed crop pages are in the final stages, doing the final tuning and last revisions.

Regarding the clonal crops, we are also finalizing the cassava pages, that will be published soon. The banana pages are also partially finalized and will be the last crop to be finished.

We are also re-structuring and completing the Procedures page as well as finalizing the Learning Resources, to make them more interactive and attractive.

Hoping to have a great 2010 with even greater contributions and feedback from all of you!

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Promoting our Knowledge Base

In the last few weeks we have been busy promoting this knowledge base.

We want to let potential users as well as potential contributers to know more about it.

We prepared an oral presentation, a poster, leaflets and bookmarks (with the url of the site) that were presented:

The side event session was entitled “Global Public Goods and the Future of the CGIAR Genetic Resources System”, organized by the CGIAR System-wide Genetic Resources Programme (SGRP) . The CGKB was presented amongst other SGRP products. Several people attended the event and congratulate the team for the great job being done. A few participants also manifested interest to make contributions to the site pages. 

  • On 09 November 09 at the poster session of the 32th meeting of the ILRI board, ILRI, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Poster display at ILRI

The poster and the leaflets are great ways to show our product and make people aware of the potential of the information being gathered and the knowledge being shared.

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Summary of results from the Korea feedback forms

Most responses were very positive about the site layout, structure and content. Many of the respondents gave very useful comments and suggestions. A list of the most important ones are summarized below in three categories:

New features suggested

• Justify the need to use the various characterization methods described (biochemical, cytological, etc).

• Include outstanding work on diversity studies both at morphology and molecular levels.

• Need for more guidance on how to develop descriptors for new crops.

• More background information about when to choose to implement a field bank, DNA or Cryo bank, in addition to a seed bank.

• Include more practical issues about regeneration (to help decision making).

• Web link to the genebanks all over the world or information about them.

• Count the number of visitors.

• Include information about activities and training programs on genebanks.

• Version in Thai language, version in Korean.

• How the characterization data can be interpreted.

• Add more crops.

Improvements on the existent materials

• More information on the content.

• More links.

• Update new information and more details of modern methods whenever possible.

• Include links to standard requirements, standard forms, descriptors and other documents.

• More protocols about molecular work and tissue culture.


• In several pages there is no direction to go on top (previous menu/main sub menu).

• Pictures should be active for example the learning space, crops.

• Need of improvement on the pages that are still under construction.

• Management should have elements more directly related to genebanks.

• Many references do not have PDF links.

• More information about utilization and exploration.

• More green and brighter colors (related to agriculture and crops).

Our response/action

 These are all important comments and suggestions that were already discussed within the group working on this website. Action is being taken in most of the points, whenever possible.

The phrase in the banner was already improved and many pictures are now active links. The colors seem to be a very personal and very variable from person to person. The chosen colors (blue and orange) are related to the SGRP, the owner of the site. The logo on the top banner is also related to the same, so we have decided to leave it as it is.

We do not have at the moment, the capacity to increase the number of crops, expand information on utilization and exploration, or translate it into other languages. These could be possible topics for a future phase of the project.

We have however created a template form to receive information on new crops.

• If you would like to suggest a new crop and submit the best practices information please click here.

• If you are interested to translate some pages of the website into your language, please contact us.

A lot of questions concern characterization and regeneration procedures. We will try to incorporate relevant questions into FAQs, but major details will have to be done in future updates of the website. Do not forget this should be a continuous process with regular updates! Your feedback is very important to prioritize future updates and additions.

Regarding the need for more detailed protocols for molecular work or tissue culture, we will try to have some more practical links on these pages or a better defined list of contact persons (a few contact names from leading institutes in these areas).

We are aiming to finish revising the content and links until December 2009, as the site is still under construction. We are still working on the procedures page (although we are prioritizing the information by crops) to have some more detail and better references.

Many of the crop references are also being checked and linked to URL or PDFs. Most pages should be finalized by the end of 2009.

Although a lot of feedback was gained from the questionnaires, a lot of useful and important information and feelings was equally obtained through informal interactions with the participants. In future initiatives it is important to plan a good balance of formal and informal feedback.

Additional gains from the workshop

During the practical sessions of the workshop, many genebank procedures were studied and there were great photo opportunities to be used for the site.

Thank you Young-Wang Na for letting me taking photos of the laboratory practices! I had some problems with my camera but luckily I managed to have many photos taken with the help and support from Chan-Ki Shim (RDA) and Andreas Ebert (AVRDC). Thank you so much for your help!

I would also like to thank Myung Chul Lee and Yu Mi Choi for the great tour of the RDA genebank. It was extremely interesting and I also managed to take very useful photos to illustrate relevant pages in our website.

Some of the web pages with photos taken at the RDA genebank are below:

Seed processing

Seed viability


DNA bank

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Thoughts after the face to face interaction in the Korea training course

I am back from the training course, although the course is not finished yet. They still have one more week to go, full of exciting programs and field trips to learn a lot from. I had a great experience and I think it was very well organized.

Something I initially though it could be a problem, turned out to be of great benefit: the diversity of the group, with experienced and not so experienced scientists together, it was in fact very useful as in the practical lectures the ones that new already the techniques would teach the others and a good balance and interactions were achieved.

In the beginning of the course, I felt there were little opportunities to interact with the students. I decided to attend also the practical sessions to have the chance to interact more and get to know the students a bit better, as one of the objectives of my participation in this event was to disseminate this website and get as much as possible feedback from the users. So, it was very important for me to learn about the needs of the users and what would be useful to include in the website for the future. I had therefore an excellent opportunity to observe the dynamic of the group, as an outsider:

  • In the first day people were reserved and did not know each other. It was somehow not easy to engage the groups.
  • In the second day people knew a bit more about each other and started to interact and share more ideas/knowledge. People started to become more fluent in English, as this was the major communication language.
  • During the third day they looked very comfortable with each other, gained the confidence to teach others in areas they had already experience on. Participants started to have fun and interacted a lot more.

It took just 3 days to have an interesting group of students ready to interact and learn from each other. From my point of view, these informal interactions and conversations I had with many of the students, were in fact as useful (if not more) as the feedback questionnaires we got at the end of our sessions (thanks to everyone for filling the feedback forms! I will post a summary of results in this blog in the next few days). Here I could really learn about the needs of each of them and what improvements they wish to see.

The pictures below show the busy classes we had last week and everybody working together.

A list of few of the informal comments:

  1. There seems to be little interaction amongst information on the website about the different types of genebanks. For someone new, it would be very useful to know more about how the various types of genebanks are or should be used. When should we have a DNA bank or a field bank in addition to a seed bank? It would be useful to have more practical information on these management topics.
  2. Regeneration is a bottle neck for most genebanks. Criteria for prioritizing are often difficult. It would be good to have more practical information or examples on how it should be done.
  3. Regeneration is also quite expensive. Current projects developed to support it are sometimes not realistic and do not cover some of the direct costs for isolation (this is related to the projects that are arising after the development of the regeneration guidelines for 21 crops). Talking about regeneration guidelines, I was very happy to hear that some of them were already translated into Korean, to be more widely used! 
  4. When should the base collection be monitored and also when should it be regenerated? 
  5. Should every accession be monitored?
  6. How many seeds should be regenerated?
  7. Should characterization be done every time regeneration is done?
  8. Some genebanks are starting some molecular work or tissue culture and have little guidance or experience. They manifested interest to have access to some protocols to be able to perform basic activities. A suggestion could be to have some more practical links on these pages or a better defined list of contact persons (a few contact names from leading institutes in these areas).
  9. There are also a few genebanks that perform a series of services on molecular analyses as long as the DNA samples are provided. Contact lists of these would also be useful.
  10. Some also mentioned the fact that many of the references are not linked to the web. Some of these are the ones that are published in scientific journals and not freely available (I suggested in these cases to write directly to the authors and ask for copies of their papers; people usually respond quite well to these direct requests). But others are produced by other genebanks and would be great if they could be more freely available on the web (this is the case of the genebank manual of ICRISAT for example; recent informal discussions with them informed me that they are revising their manual and it will be possibly on the web in the next few months). It would be very important to sensitize other genebanks and related institutes for the importance of sharing their information and knowledge.

The questions above are often general questions that interest everyone. I tried therefore to compile them and have them on a wiki format to capture various responses. This will then be compiled as FAQ’s that would be very useful for new users of the site. Please feel free to contribute either with questions or with answers.

You can also respond to this blog on the comment box below, with either more questions you might have or provide responses to the questions mentioned here.

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The first face to face testing of our knowledge base platform

We finally started and had our first day of lectures at the International Training course on Plant Genetic Resources and Genebank Management in Korea.

A bit chalenging as many of the participants or lecturers where still recovering from long flights and jetleg… It is also fasting season and some participants are muslims.

A few difficulties on establishing good internet connection.

A few chalenges of people getting lost and main entrances being blocked due to the preparations for the official launching of the training that will occur tomorrow (in the entrance hall) with VIP people.

A few chalenges on comunication due to language barriers (people from so many Asian countries each one with its own language and not so often exposed to english)

But, despite these minor difficulties it was really great to meet such a diverse group of participants, some more experienced than others in genebank issues, others with chalenging experience on a wide range of crops.

Very well gender balanced with many women amongst them, a good improvement achieved compared to other similar trainings. 

We had our first working group, to solve 3 specific problem scenarios of chickpea, rice and barley. We had divided the participants into 3 groups, trying to assign participants to crops they did not have experince on.

This had advantages:

We have now a fair idea of the learning skills they could acquire from the resources given (this website) .

They were immediatly faced with a problem and had to make a few important decisions on which genebank procedures to follow and how to solve the problem.

But also disadvantages:

Participants did not have time to meet each other and be familair with the skills of each others.

Participants did not have opportunity to learn much before the exercise. They just had to ‘jump in’ into a hipothetical problem.

Neverthless, all groups understood well what they had to do and gave a good draft of important steps to follow. A few missing steps were then pointed out or corrected and discussed in plenary. 

Ideally it would be useful to do a similar exercise at the end, but unfortunately this is not possible for practical reasons. We will rely on the information that participants will provide on the evaluation questionnaires.

Hope both participants and lecturers will continue to benefit from this training in the few coming days, during the lectures and the practical exercises too.

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