Key coffee genebank becomes accessible to the global research community
In the world of plant genetics, genebanks are an important resource housing precious information on plants’ genetic diversity. According to Hanna Neuschwander, Communications Director of World Coffee Research (WCR), “A genebank can be thought of like a library, except instead of storing ideas (in the form of books) it stores genetic diversity (in the form of plants).”
While genebanks in theory allow researchers to access plant information for their own research, the reality is that many genebanks around the world keep records of their holdings only on paper, meaning that researchers wanting to discover the genetic diversity of some collections must travel to the actual genebank.
Fortunately, genebanks are slowly moving toward digitalization—and WCR was very happy this year to help one of the most important coffee collections in the world make that jump. The collections of National Agricultural Research Center of Ivory Coast (CNRA), located in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, were established from 1966 to 1987, with 8,000 accessions from 25 African species and a few cultivars from Brazil.
While CNRA possesses a vital collection of genetic diversity in coffee, it was one of the genebanks whose collection was only accessible on-site. But in 2021, through the effort of Crop Trust and WCR, CNRA received funding from USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service to digitize its collection, adding the information to a global repository of plant diversity called Genesys. CNRA joins the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Costa Rica as one of the key coffee collections now available digitally via Genesys.
This means that now, any researcher, anywhere in the world, can discover what CNRA's collection holds. Kraig Kraft, WCR’s Asia & Africa Director, helped bring the project to fruition, and is very excited that researchers around the world will now have access to the CNRA coffee collection.
“CNRA hosts one of the most important coffee genebanks globally, yet the depth and breadth of what is conserved at CNRA is not widely known,” Dr. Kraft says. “The Genesys online platform for plant genetic resources is the key global platform for this data. By making the data available, this allows CNRA to share this information and create new collaborations and brings real value to the diversity conserved in this genebank.”
The digitization of the collection also tracks with WCR’s larger, longer-term goals of coffee conservation: Genebanks were an essential element of the Global Coffee Conservation Strategy, a 2017 effort between WCR and Crop Trust that focused on the preservation of coffee genetic resources.
For more on Genesys’ coffee collections, visit their website here.