China to set up world’s largest seed bank

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Seed Bank
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China’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Tang Renjian said that the country will build a new national crop germplasm bank this year to increase the capacity of the country to develop new crop varieties and enhance food security.

The bank has a designed capacity of 1.5 million copies, almost four times the current one, which will be the largest in the world, the minister said.

Last month, China’s top policymakers said that the seed sector of the country is vital for ensuring the country’s food supply, a long-standing priority that has received renewed attention since the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s seed industry is fragmented and its companies lack the vast germplasm collected by major multinational crop firms.

Germplasm is living genetic material kept for breeding and research, such as seeds or tissues. A rich collection of germplasm will enable breeders to choose more diverse traits when developing crop varieties.

China’s existing seed bank is unable to meet development needs, Mr. Tang said during a visit to the Beijing Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences.

“The new national crop germplasm resource bank must not only be well established but also be used well,” he said, adding that China’s seed industry is lagging behind the developed countries in innovative abilities.

China must ensure that it retains its competitive advantage in rice and wheat varieties while reducing the gap with other countries in corn, soybeans, pigs, and dairy cows, the minister added.

First national seed bank

China’s first national seed bank for wild plants, Germplasm Bank of Wild Species at the Kunming Institute of Botany in SW China’s Yunnan province was established in 2007.

As the largest seed bank for wild species in Asia, the center cooperates with 85 research institutes and preservation centers across the nation. It also works with international partners, including Kew Gardens in London, UK, in collecting backup specimens and carrying out exchanges and research.