Video transcript: Preserving crop biodiversity

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November 2010

Mike Ambrose, Senior Scientist, John Innes Centre
I'm Mike Ambrose and I'm a Senior Scientist here at the John Innes Centre. My main responsibility is manager of what we call the Genetic Resources Unit. So we are inside the seed store of the facility at the moment and the main public collections that we hold here include the UK cereal collections for wheat, barley and oats as well as large collections of beans and, in particular, one of the world's most active collections of peas.

So these are publicly available resources that people request from all over the world. So what we are doing with these collections is to first of all conserve them but, more importantly, to make them more available and study their characteristics. This material underpins science and breeding, not just in the UK, but throughout Europe and internationally. So includes cultivated material, older, what we call landrace material, as well as wild relatives and this is the material that acts as an insurance policy to what we go to to look for adaptive characters or traits that we want to incorporate into improving the crop plants that we grow today.

These collections are really very large, we are talking many thousands of different accessions or entries. What we are trying to do using some of the molecular techniques is to understand the structure of those collections, how that very ability which is present in this material, how they are structured and where the pointers might be for more useful traits.