SOURCE / ECONOMY
China's crop germplasm resources census shows advantages, challenges for seed security
Published: Nov 23, 2021 09:38 PM
Two harvesters are busy collecting rice at dusk in Zhoushan, East China's Zhejiang Province on November 13, 2021. The 1,500 mu (100 hectares) of rice fields were originally abandoned salt fields. After cleaning up and leveling of the salt fields, the contractors began to plant wheat and rice in 2019 and achieved a successful harvest. Photo: VCG

Two harvesters are busy collecting rice at dusk in Zhoushan, East China's Zhejiang Province on November 13, 2021. The 1,500 mu (100 hectares) of rice fields were originally abandoned salt fields. After cleaning up and leveling of the salt fields, the contractors began to plant wheat and rice in 2019 and achieved a successful harvest. Photo: VCG



China's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MOA) on Tuesday announced the top seed resources detected in its largest-ever agricultural germplasm resources census, as the country strives to achieve self-sufficiency in seed breeding, which has been elevated to a crucial part of protecting national security.

To achieve seed self-reliance, China began a three-year census starting in March 2021 of domestic crop, livestock, poultry and aquatic germplasm resources.

So far, the census has covered crops in 2,323 counties, as well as livestock and aquatic resources in over 95 percent of villages and counties, with major advances in protecting species living in the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, Sun Haoqin, an official from the MOA, said at a press conference on Tuesday. 

After completing a month-long process, the ministry released lists of the top 10 premium germplasm resources in the respective sectors of crops, livestock and poultry, and aquaculture, as well as the top 10 excellent livestock and poultry genetic resources in the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau.

This latter group was not covered in the previous census processes, which were undertaken in the 1980s for the first time and again in the early 2000s. 

In this census, many new germplasm resources, including 20,800 crop germplasm resources,18 livestock and poultry genetic resources, and more than 30,000 aquaculture germplasm resources, were identified and preserved.

"It has become an urgent task for the seed industry to protect and discover new premium resources in order to achieve self-reliance and the revitalization of the seed industry," Sun said.

Important progress has been made in building national germplasm resource banks. The national crop germplasm resource bank was finalized and put into trial operation in September. 

The nation's preservation capacity ranks first in the world in both capacity and preservation time, with a designed capacity of 1.5 million copies and a preservation time of 50 years, according to the ministry.

The construction of the national germplasm resources bank is an important pillar to ensure the long-term strategic preservation of China's agricultural germplasm resources, and it plays an irreplaceable role in ensuring national food security and the sustainable development of the country, Sun said.

On the whole, China's seed supply is guaranteed, with 100 percent self-sufficiency in two major ration crop varieties of rice and wheat, according to data from the agriculture ministry.

However, weaknesses in China's seed industry persist. Peppers, onions, carrots, tomatoes and many other vegetables still depend on foreign seeds. 

In 2019, more than 80 percent of the broccoli seeds were imported, according to data from the China Seed Trade Association.

In the first ten months of 2021, China imported $412.6 million worth of seeds, with imports of vegetable seeds totaling $121, according to customs statistics.

China's seed breeding industry still lags behind those of the US and the UK in terms of yield, disease resistance and growth rates, Wang Zuli, deputy researcher at the Institute of Agricultural Economics and Development of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

For example, foreign white feather broiler breeds have a high feed conversion rate, and the production efficiency is about 20 percent higher than the domestic yellow feather broilers, Wang said.

As China started relatively late in the breeding industry, it may take quite some time to catch up, Wang said, adding that efforts should be made on the technical level to lift the ability to identify the good genes of the nation's germplasm resources and enhance the protection of intellectual property rights in the seed industry to build world-class seed companies. 

As a next step, the MOA will carry out targeted and accurate identification of the newly collected germplasm resources to detect the excellent genes available for breeding, and it will make the information available in a digital format to scientific research institutions, enterprises and breeders.


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