GENESYS at #sfrome (71)

by Silvia Lambiase 
On Tuesday 27 September, for the second day of this fantastic Share Fair, Adriana Alercia, Jessica Raneri and Ana Laura Cerutti, from Bioversity International (also on behalf of Michael Mackay who unfortunately couldnít attend the meeting) gave us a great and interesting presentation on GENESYS Gateway to Genetic Resources.

There couldn't be a better start to show efficiently what this incredible tool is: a video which stressed the importance and value of recording data and sharing it as a benefit for the whole world.

Genesys, with the financial support of the Global Crop Diversity Trust and through strong partnerships with the CGIR centres and the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources, aims (and succeeds) at serve as a better tool for plant genetic resources (PGR), climate change and food security experts and breeders, with its 24 million records of crops and their respective characterization, evaluation and environmental data.

At the moment, Genesys includes detailed information on 22 crops belonging to the Annex 1 of the International Treaty, but very soon Adriana &co. will provide us with data on crops of Neglected and Underutilised Species (NUS)!

Bioversity Standards, which were developed together with FAO and EURISCO, are becoming more and more important worldwide, to the point that theyíre now considered the international standards.
We've seen the value of recording data said Adriana, but how can we make sure that all people all over the world can store all the information in one place? Are the characteristics contained in GENESYS important for breeders and PGR users to improve varieties to face climate change?

She said the quality of information is obviously very important. There is a number of portals where you can find characteristics and passport data, but GENESYS is unique because it contains all the information breeders are looking for to face climate change: it contains passport data from 500 countries all over the world, besides environmental data so that users can find and locate the specific crop they are looking for, for example that is particularly resistant to a specific pest or disease.

As the video showed, it is also crucial for breeders in Africa (and anywhere else in the World) who are concerned about the uncertainty of rainfall and are struggling to feed their family: GENESYS is unbelievably useful since it allows them to find crops that are particularly suitable to the environment they live in! It tries to provide quick solutions for these people facing climate change.

Jessica Raneri gave us a very efficient explanation on how user-friendly this portal is, and gave us great examples on how simple it is to use it. Users can make specific trait queries and even narrow their search, for example by typing annual precipitation, average temperature and protein content. Breeders can even have, if they wish, a sample deliverd by genebanks. A GIS map is also available and you can download the information into google earth in order to better locate the crops, download the whole crop information into a pdf file which will immediately be saved on your computer, summarising all the crop's characteristics, besides the country/institute which holds it and number of accessions.

Adriana concluded her presentation by telling us what the lessons learnt from the GENESYS project are:
  • Researchers desperately want access to all available programme information
  • There is a huge demand for interoperability with other information systems, such as genetic and molecular data
  • There is a requirement for broader PGR and research communityís involvement in future development
Lastly, the lessons learnt from the Standards used in GENESYS are:
  • There is a huge demand of standards for additional crops and subjects
  • Researchers participate eagerly to their development
  • The global participation of researchers to standards development has granted the international status within the PGR community.
For sure, what we have learnt from this amazing and catchy presentation is that, since we all know and agree with Adriana when she says that because of climate change, we will have to do more with less, finally we have an incredibly useful tool that will help breeders find quicker solutions and cope with these threats!

After the presentation, Adriana, Jessica and Ana Laura answered to questions.

Question: Why can you only download 5 mega bytes?
Answer: Since it's not our information, we need to make sure that people can download all at once, and we havenít reached an agreement yet with who provides the information

Q: What's the total number of accessions and what percentage of that has latitude and longetude (location) information?
A: 2 million, and all of them have location information even though there could be some mistakes but GENESYS is trying to correct them. Adriana then pointed out that the information contained in GENESYS is equivaelent to 11 million of phenotype characteristic and that they have 24 million records on passport information.

Q: With regards to NUS (Neglected and Under-utilised species), how many of them can we access through Genesys?
A: That's our next step, this is what we've been requested to do: more crops in addition to the ones in annex 1. Our plan is also to develop pedigree data.

Q: Do you already use this portal?
A: The project is managed by Michael, so for this type of information you should ask him.

Q: Do u have any analisys on queries?
A: Yes, we have access to this information, for example from which countries users are logging in and what crop theyíre looking for, and we can keep a database on that. We warmly invite you to check out GENESYS on! If you want to ask any questions or send your suggestions to the GENESYS team, you can contact GENESYS directly from the website (contact). If you wish to be a data provider you have to agree with a protocol. At the moment, until the 15th of November, you can complete a survey which is available on the website, to collect information and impressions, to address the process of improvement of GENESYS to meet the userís needs.