Nepal to have its first gene bank in three years

Kathmandu, November 1:

The Agriculture Botany Division (ABD) is planning to establish a Gene Bank, a storage house of genetic resources, in three years.

“We will lay the foundation stone for the building of the bank — which will be the first of its kind in the country — before Tihar and all physical infrastructure will be built within a year,” Ashok Mudwari, chief of the ABD, said. The government has released Rs 15 million for building the infrastructure.

The bank will cover around three hectares of land. It is a means of preserving genetic materials of plants or animals.

Dr Madhusudan P Upadhyay, a senior scientist at the ABD, said, “We are planning for two types of preservation — long-term preservation, which will preserve the genetic resources for 50 to 100 years, and short term preservation, which will preserve the resources for two to three years.”

“For now, priority will be accorded to the preservation of seeds and tissues. We can also preserve crops, genetic materials, tissues, DNA and plant parts,” he said, adding, “Altogether 50,000 genetic resources can be stored in the gene bank, but we will be starting with only 20,000 varieties.”

First of all, crops are gathered after exploring them, characterised and evaluated to keep the database record, which is the basic requirement of the gene bank. Once the strengths and weaknesses of the selected varieties are known, they are conserved and distributed among the farmers for rejuvenation.

Salik Ram Gupta, a senior technical officer at the ABD and one of the technicians, who will be working in the gene bank, said, “DNA finger printing

of varieties will be produced in the gene bank. This is the most authentic proof to claim our species that are being stored in different gene banks throughout the world.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), there are approximately six million plant accessions in over 1,480 gene banks around the world.

More than 10,000 varieties of seeds are already stored in the genetic seed house in the ABD and the remaining varieties will be collected from different parts of the country as well as abroad, Gupta said.

Improved varieties are replacing indigenous land races, which posses genes of adaptability and resistance to biotic or abiotic stresses,” Mudwari said, adding, “If they are not conserved, valuable resources will be lost forever.” Mudwari said the preservation of biodiversity and natural variation within species in gene bank has become a global concern for the evolutionary process and long-term survival of species.