Germplasm Conservation is sum total of all the genes present in a crop and its related species constitutes its germplasm. It is ordinarily represented by a collection of various strains and species. Germplasm provides the raw materials (= genes). The breeder uses these to develop commercial crop varieties.
Therefore, germplasm is the basic indispensable ingredient of all breeding programmes. Thus, a great emphasis is placed on collection, evaluation and conservation of germplasm. Conventionally, germplasm is conserved as seeds stored at ambient temperature, low temperature or ultra low temperature.
Applications or Significance of Germplasm Conservation
- The conservation of germplasm involves the preservation of the genetic diversity of a particular plant or genetic stock. It can be used at any time in future.
- It is important to conserve the endangered plants or else some of the valuable genetic traits present in the existing and primitive plants will be lost.
- Main crops produce recalcitrant or short-lived seeds.
- Similarly, in case of clonal crops seeds are not the best material to conserve due to their genetic heterogeneity and unknown worth. Their genes need to be conserved.
- The roots and tubers loose viability rapidly. Their storage requires large space, low temperature and is expensive.
- In addition, materials modified by genetic engineering may some, times be unstable. Such materials are needed to be conserved intact for future use.
Methods of Germplasm Conservation
A global organization- International Board of Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR) has been established for germplasm conservation and provides necessary support for collection conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources through out the world. The germplasm is preserved by the following two ways:
(a) In-situ Conservation
The germplasm is conserved in natural environment by establishing biosphere reserves such as national parks, sanctuaries. This is used in the preservation of land plants in a near natural habitat along with several wild types.
(b) Ex-situ Conservation
This method is used for the preservation of germplasm obtained from cultivated and wild plant materials. The genetic materials in the form of seeds or in vitro cultures are preserved. It is stored as gene banks for long term use. There are two types of gene banking.
In vivo gene banks have been made to preserve the genetic resources by conventional methods e.g. seeds, vegetative propagules, etc.
In vitro gene banks have been made to preserve the genetic resources by non – conventional methods such as cell and tissue culture methods. This will ensure the availability of valuable germplasm to breeder to develop new and improved varieties.