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DivSeek International launches 11 global ‘Hubs’ to accelerate the use of natural genetic diversity to advance crop improvement

SASKATOON, SK – The DivSeek International Network Inc. (DivSeek International), a global, community-driven organization that facilitates the generation, integration and sharing of information related to plant genetic resources, thereby empowering genebank managers, researchers, breeders, and farmers to more effectively utilize genetic variation for research, accelerated crop improvement, and sustainable production, has launched 11 Hub Pilots in North America, Australasia, India, Africa and Europe. 

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Led by teams of independent researchers, the Pilot phase will be a minimum of one year and will provide a framework to identify opportunities for formalization of inter-regional collaborations, leveraging of regional capacity and supporting the training needs of young researchers.

Activities in the Hub Pilots include:

  • Facilitating connections between culinary experts, anthropologists, sociologists, ecologists, database engineers, genomic and phenomics experts to expand the characterization of crop diversity to include flavor, culinary uses, and traditional agricultural practices.
  • Identifying common practices for the characterization of emerging crops, recently domesticated and novel crops, locally adapted germplasm and regionally important crops, including African staple food crops.
  • Providing evidence-based perspectives for sharing information about plant genetic resources, the technological requirements for data-sharing across constituencies, and non-monetary benefit sharing practices of researchers that align with international treaties.
  • Deploying advanced analytics including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to develop efficient crop diversity exploration strategies and identify gaps in germplasm collections.
  • Using chickpeas and durum wheat as case studies for the pragmatic management of plant genetic resources and dissemination of genetic knowledge.

“Hubs are a key strategy for connecting independently funded researchers around the world with DivSeek International and its Working Groups,” said Chair of DivSeek International’s Board of Directors Susan McCouch. She continued, “This series of pilot programs is a critical first step in identifying how DivSeek International Hubs could provide a collaborative umbrella for the sharing of protocols and best practices for the plant genetic resource community. By encouraging engagement at the regional and thematic level, we can better identify opportunities to advance the use of plant genetic resources to improve crops and enhance food and nutritional security.”

DivSeek International’s operations are funded by Genome Canada, Genome Prairie and the Global Institute for Food Security (GIFS) at the University of Saskatchewan. The organization currently has 67 member institutions representing 28 countries and has established a Secretariat in Saskatoon hosted by GIFS.