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Connecting with Kew

Global Crop Diversity has recently been high on the agenda of the ASBP with a visit by Dr Michiel van Slageren from Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.

Michiel came to Australia to coincide with the opening of PlantBank at the Australian Botanic Gardens, Mt Annan. He has also visited and lectured in Canberra. The Steering Committee of ASBP took the opportunity to meet to discuss continuing co-operation during his visit.

Michiel worked for six years at the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas in Aleppo, Syria. He has been at Kew for 16 years and currently is the International Projects Co-ordinator for the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership. His own field of research is on Triticum and its relations. He worked in Syria on Aegilops as a taxonomist working alongside the plant breeders and geneticists trying to find ways to improve the crop productivity of wheats.

In a recent edition of BGJournal, P.J. Gregory emphasised the role of botanic gardens in working towards food security. He cited the example of the Botanic Garden at Almaty in Kazakhstan and its work on the cultivated apple (Malus pumila) with their studies of its wild relatives (Malus sieversii) where there are now seen to be major potential benefits from using some of the genetic resources of the wild relative in the cultivated crop.

Michiel van Slageren explained that lying behind the work of the Crop Diversity Project is the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The Treaty came into force in 2004 and has already over 120 contracting parties. The Treaty's objectives are the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits that arise from that use (visit:www.cwrdiversity.org and http://www.croptrust.org/content/international-treaty ).

While in Canberra, Michiel said how pleased he was with the ongoing collaboration with Australia and he praised the “fantastic new facility” at PlantBank.