Crop Genebank Knowledge Base

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Crops Barley Conservation Distribution

Distribution of cultivated barley and wild relatives genetic resources

Contributors to this page: ICARDA, Syria (Ahmed Amri, Bilal Humeid, Kenneth Street, Natalya Rukhkyan, Jan Konopka, Siham Asaad, Adnan Omran and Fida Alô).

Policies and regulations
User related issues
Recording information

Policies and regulations for distribution

Common policies on distribution and access to plant material

  • Germplasm should be distributed free of charge in response to official requests by letter or e-mail.
  • Requests by phone should not be accepted.
  • A Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) should be used with every shipment.

Policy exceptions

  • No exceptions – a written request should be obligatory, as is the use of the SMTA.

National laws and regulations

It is essential to follow the terms and conditions in the host country agreements.

  • Phytosanitary certificate.
  • Letter of donation (with no commercial value).
  • Certificate of origin.
  • GMO-free certificate.
  • Import permit.

International laws and regulations

  • Any seed shipment should be sent with the SMTA (this is an international regulation).

Phytosanitary regulations

  • Phytosanitary certificate (to avoid the danger of introducing pests and diseases into new areas).
  • Certificate of origin.
  • GMO-free certificate (to confirm that the sample is free from GMOs).

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User related issues for distribution

Feedback to users

  • Requests should be handled within 3-5 weeks (from registration of the request to dispatching the seeds).

Customer assurance

Recommended procedures that ensure the material distributed matches the client request. It is very important that records are kept and that there is an information feedback.

  • All requests should be checked and validated by the crop curator (to make sure that records are kept and there is information feedback).
  • When the customer requests specific germplasm giving referencing identification numbers, the original request should be transferred to the curator who checks availability before passing the genebank distribution request to the genebank manager. The list of accessions provided by the curator should be checked against the distribution list - this is to increase the probability that the subset of material sent to the customer contains the sought after traits while keeping the subset to a size which is commensurate with the resources that are available to the customer. Some types of screening are relatively expensive and there will be a limit to what the customer can afford to screen.
  • When the customer requests accessions with specific traits, the curator should check the availability based on information in the database and make the selection of accessions.
  • Where no data is available, a random sample should be extracted or the core collection should be sent to the customer.
  • When the customer approaches the genebank with a request for unreferenced material, it is essential that the customer and the curator discuss the request to clarify what specific traits or adaptations they are looking for.
  • Once this is established, the curator can use all the information at his disposal to tailor a set of material that has the best probability of containing the sought after traits in a subset that suites the client.
  • For adaptive traits being sought in landrace material and/or wild progenitors, ideally the Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy (FIGS) is deployed in which geo-referenced material is coupled with information about the environments in which they evolved. This information can then be used to make predictions about what selection pressures may have genetically shaped the material in the collection. Thus this best practice is closely connected with maintaining an up-to-date and well populated data management system in which, ideally, information about the collections sites is detailed and expanded with GIS data layers.

Feedback from users

The most relevant information required to be received from users is as follows:

  • Recipients should be requested to return characterization, evaluation and other observations made on the material provided (this helps to identify deficiencies in services and be informed about any valuable traits).

Quantity of material recommended to be distributed

A small quantity of seed should be distributed to keep the active collection seed stocks for longer and hence reduce the regeneration frequency.

  • Cultivated barley: 100 seeds.
  • Barley wild relatives: 50 seeds.

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Procedures for distribution

Check availability

  • Verify the request by the curator.
  • Register the request by assigning consistent/unique request numbers.
  • Check availability of seeds in stock and verify the request accordingly (accessions with low amount of seeds in stock (S Flag) should not be distributed).
  • Prepare the SMTA and passport data.
  • Send the material out.

Preparing samples for distribution

  • Prepare a list of the accessions available.
  • Check the requirements for material transfer agreements.
  • Generate labels.
  • Check inventory files and the location of containers in the genebank.
  • Remove containers from genebank following the acclimatization procedures required.
  • Assure accuracy in identification.
  • Extract samples from the original containers.
  • Label the seed packets.
  • Update the inventory of genebank (the genebank database should always be kept updated).

Preparing the information list to accompany the plant material

  • List of accessions and passport data (e.g. accession number, accession identification, crop name, taxon name, country of origin, biological status, collecting location).
  • Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA).
  • Cover letter (more passport data could be available upon request).
  • Characterization data should be used to verify the accessions (minimum characterization data should be provided upon request if available).

Dispatching the plant material

  • Pack the seeds in paper envelopes, laminated envelopes or nylon bags.
    • Then attach the phytosanitary certificate, import permit, GMO-free certificate in a plastic bag and place in a strong envelope or a cardboard box.
    • The SMTA and the list, along with copies of all documents, should be put inside the box.
    • Label the envelope/box with the complete mailing address of the customer.
    • Follow any additional instructions from the customer.
  • Sending the plant material: seeds should be sent by fastest means to avoid decline in quality.
  • Include a reply form or acknowledgement of seed reception form: the requester should complete and return it to the genebank to acknowledge that seeds have been received in good condition.
  • Recording shipping details: shipping details should be recorded in a distribution data file.

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Recording Information

Recording information during distribution

The following information must be recorded for each consignment:

  • Reference number.
  • Crop name.
  • Consignee’s name and designation/title.
  • Name and address of organization.
  • User information (type of organization requesting material).
  • Date of request.
  • Date of supply.
  • Number and quantity of samples provided.
  • Reference number of SMTA.
  • Intended use.
  • Classification of intended germplasm use (for internal reporting and monitoring of pattern of use).
  • Remarks.
  • Other/miscellaneous information.

System for tracking material/inventory system for distribution

  • The genebank documentation system should include a module for distribution.

References and further reading

Rao NK, Hanson J, Dulloo ME, Ghosh K, Nowel D, Larinde M. 2006. Manual of seed handling in genebanks. Handbooks for Genebanks No. 8. Bioversity International, Rome, Italy. Available in English (1.5 MB),  Spanish (1.4 MB) and French (1.9 MB).

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. (Homepage of ITPGRFA) [online]. Available from: Date accessed: 27 January 2010.

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See the Safe Transfer of Germplasm (STOG) section in this website for seed health movement (this is essential to avoid the spread of pests and diseases).

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International Agricultural Research Centres who worked together to make this site possible:
Africa Rice Center | Bioversity International | CIAT | CIMMYT | CIP | ICARDA | ICRISAT | IFPRI | IITA | ILRI | IRRI |

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