A national gene bank for Malta

A national gene bank for Malta

Within the next two years Malta will have the first National Gene Bank, which will serve as a national repository for plant genetic diversity. The national gene bank will serve to conserve and facilitate access to local plant varieties, landraces, heirloom varieties, crop wild relatives and other wild plant genetic diversity for use in agriculture, research and conservation activities. The facility will store seeds, as well as plant tissues for in vitro storage and cryo-preservation and complement the existing infrastructure at the Plant Protection Directorate as the Competent Authority for Genetic Resources to produce and store artificial seeds. The gene bank will have the role to generate and analyse genetic diversity for the germplasm stored within its chambers, therefore filling large gaps in the knowledge of national plant genetic heritage. The availability of germplasm and a genetic database will contribute to the efforts being carried out worldwide that contribute to food security as well as to develop new varieties which are resilient to common problems such as drought, high soil salinity, changing climates, disease outbreaks, and nutritional efficiency, amongst others.

The establishment of a National Gene Bank for the conservation of indigenous and endemic plants is being financially supported through the EAFRD and the implementation of Sub-Measure 10.2 of the Rural Development Programme for Malta for the programming period 2014-2020.

Some of the deliverables of this project, which was publicly launched on the 30 June 2020 and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022, include:

Establishment of climate-controlled rooms for the short-term and medium/long-term ex situ conservation of plant seeds, and for the storage of plant herbaria to be linked with each stored germplasm collection.

Establishment of a molecular laboratory for the identification and documentation of collected germplasm.

Services for the sequencing of germplasm stored within the gene bank to spearhead a large-scale documentation exercise of Malta’s germplasm for the scope of valorisation, research and development.

Personnel training and capacity building in techniques for the short- and long-term conservation of plant germplasm.

Establishment of a public botanical museum and library to raise public awareness about the operations within the gene bank, the importance of conservation, and the importance of biodiversity for food and agriculture.

Establishment of a green roof to complement the living collections of plants within the Ġnien il-Pjanti Maltin, which was funded through RDP 2007-2013. 

More information on this project can be viewed by watching this short video: ​