Crop Genebank Knowledge Base

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Distribution of radish genetic resources

Contributors to this page: CAAS, China (Qiu Yang, Li Xixiang); Bioversity International, Italy (Imke Thormann, Ehsan Dulloo); CGN, Netherlands (Noortje Bas); IPK, Germany (Andreas Börner, Ulrike Lohwasser); AVRDC, Taiwan (Andreas Ebert); USDA, USA (Larry Robertson); NBPGR, India (Chitra Pandey); SASA, UK (George Campbell); University of Warwick, UK (Charlotte Allender).

Policies and regulations
User related issues
Recording information

Policies and regulations for distribution

Common policies on distribution and access to plant materials

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

Policy exceptions

  • None

National laws and regulations

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

  • Phytosanitary certificate, specific to the requirements of the importing country.
  • Letter of donation (with no commercial value).
  • Certificate of origin.
  • GMO-free certificate, if issued.
  • Import Permit, when required.

International laws and regulations

  • Any seed shipment should be accompanied with the SMTA or make reference to the SMTA.

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User related issues for distribution

Shipment time to users

  • Up to 3-5 weeks from requesting germplasm to dispatching the seeds.

Customer assurance

  • Curators should fulfill all reasonable seed requests if the accessions are available for distribution (sufficient seed stock; good viability).
  • Curators should prepare the catalogs with descriptions of the seed accessions to guide the users.
  • The samples sent to the user should match the request.
  • Minimum passport and characterization data are usually sent with the seed samples.

Feedback from users

  • Send a Germplasm Utilization Feedback form with every supply describing the most relevant information required to be received from users such as:
    • Comments on the appropriateness of the material supplied and the conditions in which the material was received.
    • Voluntary feedback of characterization and evaluation/use data.
    • Performance of the accessions under different environmental conditions and the special traits observed.
    • Voluntary feedback of further study and use information.

Quantity of material recommended to be distributed

  • Use sampling of small quantities to assure a good representation of the accession and to avoid rapid depletion of seed stocks, thus, reducing the regeneration frequency of active collections.
  • An appropriate quantity for distribution is 50 seeds per accession.Some genebanks however distribute larger samples such as CAAS (100 seeds) or CGN (300 seeds) 

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Procedures for distribution

Check availability

  • Check availability of seeds in stock using the inventory database and verify the request.
  • Distribute the requested seeds only if the seed stock does not drop below the minimum number of seeds required for safe storage.
  • Inform the requester if accession have low amount of seeds in stock and possibly suggest alternative available accessions.

Preparing samples for distribution

  • Register the request.
  • Prepare a list of the accessions available.
  • Generate two sets of labels and attach one to the seed envelopes.
  • Check inventory files and note the location of containers in the genebank.
  • Remove containers from genebank and apply the required acclimatization procedures.
  • Assure accuracy in identification.
  • Extract samples from the original containers.
  • Place the other label with the seeds inside the envelope before sealing.
  • Update the seed inventory of the genebank (the genebank database should always be kept updated. In some genebank databases the inventory is updated automatically when the request is imported to the database.
  • Check the requirements for material transfer agreements. If the material cannot be distributed under the SMTA, use a tailored MTA for the selected accessions. The USDA uses a SMTA only for accessions requiring this as part of a Germplams Acquisition Agreement (GAA).
  • Verify if import permit and phytosanitary certificate are necessary. Example: If request comes from outside the European Union, CGN needs to check if phytosanitary certificate and import permit are necessary. If so import permit is requested from requester and phytosanitary certificate from the national plant disease service.

Preparing the information list to accompany the plant materials

  • List of accessions and passport data (e.g. accession number, accession identification, crop name, taxon name, country of origin, biological status, collecting location, source).
  • Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) or reference to it; or GAA.
  • Cover letter.
  • If necessary, phytosanitary certificate and import permit

Dispatching the plant materials

  • Pack the seed envelopes, cover letter, SMTA or GAA and the seed list in a plastic bag and then in a strong envelope or a cardboard box.
  • The SMTA/GAA and the list along with copies of all documents should be put inside the box. The phytosanitary certificate and import permit should be attached outside the box.
  • Include a reply form that the requester should complete and return to genebank to acknowledge that seeds have been received in good conditions.
  • Make sure that the complete and correct address of the requester is on the label.
  • Record the shipment details in the distribution data file.

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Recording information of the distribution

The following information must be recorded for each consignment:

  • Reference number
  • Crop name
  • Consignee’s name and designation
  • Name and address of organization
  • User information (type of organization requesting material)
  • Date of request
  • Date of supply
  • Number and quantity of samples provided
  • Phytosanitary certificate
  • Import/Export permit number
  • Reference number of SMTA
  • Intended germplasm use.

System for tracking materials/inventory system for distribution

  • Seed distribution should be one of the modules of the genebank documentation system

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References and further reading

International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). [online]. Available from: Date accessed: 8 June 2010.

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).

Standard Material Transfer Agreement SMTA. [online]. Available from Date accessed: 8 June 2010.  

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