Although germplasm It is not a term that is part of the dictionary that elaborates the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), its use is frequent in our language. Germplasm is known as set of genes that, by means of reproductive cells or gametes, are passed down to descendants through the reproduction.
The concept of gene leads us to that of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), since it is a unit of information that is in a fixed position within it. Genes encode products such as proteins, and they are the ones that store the data that is transmitted from generation to generation within the same species.
The most common use of germplasm is in the fields of botany and agriculture. The idea refers to the genetic diversity of the different species of plants, whether cultivated by man or wild. To guarantee the possibility of reproduction of the species, there are germplasm banks.
A genebank, therefore, is a propagule reservoir that allows the genetic diversity of a crop to be conserved and of the wild species that are related. It should be noted that propagules are the parts of the plant that can originate new specimens (such as seeds, roots, cuttings, etc.).
Germplasm banks are dedicated to locating, collecting and storing the propagules of species that are considered useful for humans. In general, the seeds stored in sachets are kept in warehouses at a low temperature. Temperature control is essential so that the seeds can be stored for a long time without losing their functionality.
It is important to mention that genebanks could prevent the disappearance of plant species in the event of natural disasters or a war: If all crops were destroyed, stored seeds could be used. It also guarantees the subsistence of species that are no longer exploited commercially.
Regarding the installations of the germplasm banks, we must point out that by 2006 there were already around 1,300 worldwide, and among them there were approximately six million samples of plant species, stored in the form of seeds. Of course, this represents a small fraction of the biodiversity of our planet, since many of its regions have not been fully explored.
One of the most important genebanks in the world is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, an immense underground seed repository where thousands of crop plants belonging to almost the entire planet are stored. It is located on the island Spitsbergen, in Norway. It is the largest seed bank, and it could feed the population in the context of a global catastrophe. Precisely because of this characteristic and the fact that it was built to cope with nuclear bombs and earthquakes, among other disasters, it is known in everyday speech as «vault of the end of the world.
In this context we must also mention the Millennium Seed Bank Project, which coordinates the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, In England. It was created in the year 2000 and is another of the world bets for the conservation of species; In his own words, it is an “insurance policy” to address the potential extinction of the plants.
To store the samples of seeds, this germplasm bank has large vaults located underground. He collaborates with other similar projects and thus manages to participate in expeditions in many parts of the planet, through which he collects the seeds. Whenever possible, specimens are stored in the countries of origin.