Spotlight: The World Vegetable Center

By christelle.rabil@croptrust.org
14 November 2022

Learn about the work of the international vegetables genebank.

The center

The World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) is an international non-profit institute with a unique vegetable research and development mandate and a vision to contribute to healthier lives and more resilient livelihoods through greater diversity in what we grow and eat. WorldVeg aims to unleash the nutritional and economic potential of vegetables in low- and middle-income countries, inclusively and sustainably.

Founded in 1971 as the Asian Vegetable Research and Development Center (AVRDC), WorldVeg has an established presence in Asia and Africa, and an extensive network of partners around the world, allowing the center to maintain a global perspective while grounding efforts in local contexts. 

As a horticultural science leader, WorldVeg makes knowledge, innovations, and research findings openly accessible to decision-makers, scientists, civil society, and actors across the food system. 

The genebanks

WorldVeg maintains a large collection of vegetable seeds in the genebank located at its headquarters. Comprising more than 65,000 accessions of 300 species, this genebank includes globally important vegetables such as tomatoes and chillies as well as more than 12,000 accessions of hardy traditional vegetables such as onions and shallots. The center’s other genebank in Arusha, Tanzania holds more than 2,700 accessions, 78% of which are of traditional African species. 

The work

WorldVeg projects span over 30 countries, and a single blog post cannot possibly do them justice. Since, dear Genesys user, you are a fan of genebank data, this article will focus on WorldVeg’s work in streamlining their germplasm information management. 

Andrew Chan, the center’s focal point for all things data, tells us about how the two genebanks of WorldVeg manage their data and make it accessible for staff in both locations.

1. You’re moving over to GRIN Global - Community Edition. How did you manage your genebank data before GGCE?

We used AVGRIS, a tailored-made information system that served its purpose at the time. It was built on a physical Windows server and ran a WAMP (Windows, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) software stack.

2. Why change your information management system from the one you are familiar with?

AVGRIS was developed in 2015 and has been used for over 5 years, but we found some things that needed to be improved or updated. For example, AVGRIS cannot really perform real-time inventory management, all the inventory data needs to be updated by the information specialist. This is because AVGRIS didn’t support a good barcode or QR code management system to update information. Seed quality and health data are also not included in the database, and there is no way to add them. The system security was also worrisome. The germplasm distribution system was not included, so we had to develop a separate system for that. These points might be solved if the system was developed by an existing cooperator, but the developer of the system already left the unit and could not support it anymore.

We wanted to change to an information system that can be updated continuously, because this was not possible anymore with AVGRIS. GGCE is straightforward to adopt and recognized internationally, and the responsibility to update the system is shared by the Crop Trust and the genebanks that use the system, which makes it more sustainable.

Furthermore, GGCE already makes connections to Genesys possible in publishing germplasm information, and to FAO to register the DOI for the accessions. This decreases  duplication of effort.

3. What have you been able to achieve using GGCE?

We have fully replaced AVGRIS with GGCE. The passport data and inventory data can be updated  and searched in real-time. More passport data was included, for instanceDOIs. Seed quality and seed viability were recorded and related to the inventory data. The data structure allows us to record multiple inventory maintenance policies and seed quantity for different bags of seeds of the same accession. The seed distribution system is included in the system and the curator can search and distribute seed without having to move between different systems.

Furthermore, the DOIs of all the accessions have been requested and registered in FAO's database. The accession information was updated to Genesys and people can request material on both the Genesys website and the WorldVeg genbank website.

GG-CE has improved our germplasm management in many ways. It allows us to connect our genebank in Tanzania to the one at headquarters; it improves reporting on our KPIs, and it allows systematizing seed monitoring, to name just a few examples.

GGCE, a software for crop genebanks

Organizing genebank records into a queryable database is a complex enough task for a genebank data manager. But the real difficulty comes later: continuously adding new batches of data and updating the database over time.

GGCE can really help with this. It lets all genebank staff conveniently capture and make use of data across their operations, from acquisition to management, monitoring, evaluation of material, and distribution to clients. Barcoding can make this even easier, and GGCE can handle that too.

Another great thing about GGCE is the function to update passport data in Genesys at the click of a button. These updates are  instantly mirrored in the WorldVeg institutional website using a handy trick our team developed called Embedded Genesys.

A longstanding partnership

WorldVeg is one of the first Genesys data providers, making available to researchers and breeders around the world nine trait datasets, two soybean core collections, as well as the passport data for all accessions.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust (Crop Trust) and the World Vegetable Center recently strengthened their partnership by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that focuses on ensuring that vital germplasm resources for breeding resilient, productive, and nutritious vegetable varieties can be protected and used over the long-term. It emphasizes fundraising to establish more sustainable financing for the WorldVeg collections, and taking steps to support the safeguarding of threatened vegetable crops worldwide, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Crop Trust and WorldVeg have partnered together before, namely on developing Global Crop Conservation Strategies and on the Crop Wild Relatives Project, under which WorldVeg led an eggplant pre-breeding initiative.

The team at the Crop Trust thanks all at the World Vegetable Center for their efforts and contributions to keeping Genesys up to date.