The Planning of Emergency Seed Supply for Afghanistan in 2002 and Beyond
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Contents Findings Part I Part II Part III References Abbreviations/Glossary Appendix 1 2 3 4 5 Maps
 
Part III : Linking emergency seed aid to building capacity for a local and national seed industry « previous page | next page »
3.1 - The FAO-led Approach
3.2 - Rescue and Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources in Afghanistan
3.3 - Linking emergency response to sustainable development
 
 

3.2 - Rescue and conservation of plant genetic resources in Afghanistan

In addition to the on-going role described in Section 1.2 that genetic diversity plays in stabilizing agroecosystems, Afghanistan's contributions to genetic resources collections have been and will continue to be very significant, particularly in the areas of forage crops (grasses and legumes) and in various food crops including cereals, legumes, and fruits. During his 1924 expedition to Afghanistan, N.I. Vavilov noted that mountainous regions of Afghanistan served as "guardians" of the diversity of cultivated plants, and, as part of the Southwest Asian center of crop diversity, the country contained high levels of diversity for wheat, small-seeded flax, lentils, chickpeas and rye (Vavilov, 1992). The diversity and uniqueness of Afghanistan's genetic resources has been confirmed by phenotypic and molecular measures of diversity (Zeven and de Wet, 1982; Serret et al., 1997; Spagnoletti and Qualset, 1987). In addition to general diversity, germplasm from Afghanistan has been shown to harbor variation for specific traits of value, such as Russian wheat aphid resistance and boron toxicity resistance (Mornhinweg et al., 1999; Yau and Erskine, 2000). The latter is increasingly a problem in arid areas of West Asia.

"Figure 2" above is a scatter diagram showing the unique "outlier" nature of Afghani durum wheats when compared to durum wheats from 25 other countries. The Afghani durum wheats are located by themselves within circle No. 5 in the far upper right hand corner of the scatter diagram. Afghanistan is "country no. 26" (Spagnoletti and Qualset, 1987).

The decades of war in Afghanistan have undoubtedly reduced agrobiodiversity though displacement of farmers and destruction of seed stocks and have also prevented the ongoing collection of germplasm. The average rate of acquisition of new accessions of most crops from Afghanistan is significantly lower than that of other countries from the region (Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey) where collecting missions have continued past the 1970's. Although it is not possible to quantify what is missing due to the hiatus in collecting missions, the level of diversity warrants a renewed effort to collect and characterize Afghani germplasm. Table 3.1 below shows the rate of Afghan contributions to global germplasm repositories. Despite thedearth of collection in the last 30 years, Afghanistans nonetheless has three times the regional average for Chickpeas of the other countries in the region. Wheat accession rates are comparable to those in the region as a whole.

Table 3.1 Average collection rate(#accessions/#years of collecting) for selected crops
Crop Afghanistan Avg rate of other countries Algeria Egypt Iran Jordan Morocco Pakistan Syrian Arab Republic Turkey
Barley 5.3 9.8 3.6 4.3 6.1 9.0 17.0 9.1 11.3 17.9
Chickpea 45.1 14.3 1.1 1.1 3.0 1.1 14.4 45.0 22.8 26.1
Fava bean 3.8 14.2 6.1 4.5 1.2 2.0 11.0 2.1 47.9 38.4
Forage grasses 25.7 36.4 35.5 18.9 18.4 30.1 32.9 58.8 34.8 61.7
Wheat 19.05 21.2 31.40 11.98 8.57 20.82 15.58 20.40 21.15 39.48
Source: data compiled from GRIN by Amanda Luongo

We recommend that germplasm collection teams be paired with emergency seed need assessment teams and that germplasm samples of wheat and other crops and their wild relatives be collected stored in an appropriate germplasm storage facility for later use by national breeding programs. Richards and Ruivenkamp (1995) describe how these teams can be organized. We also recommend that Afghanistan retain the intellectual property rights to all new germplasm accessions and that a legal basis for entitling local communities to a share of future revenues related to future uses of local germplasm be explored. Scientists at the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) may be interested in assisting in the organization and financing of such efforts. Some areas which merit the creation of in situ reserves may be identified in the process. Further, we urge that the mechanisms by which landraces function to promote more robustness and resilience in cropping systems be investigated in a second phase so that this knowledge can be added into the design of future systems for the country.

 
 
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