VISITORS from West Papua and Papua New Guinea have visited the Australian Grains Genebank in Horsham to brush up on the skills required to conserve seeds for long periods of time.
Jimmy Wanma, from Manokwari, the capital of the Indonesian state of West Papua, together with Gibson Sasanika, Madang, on Papua New Guinea’s north coast, both have backgrounds in arbology.
Rugged New Guinea still holds reserves of plants yet to be formally classified and is regarded as a botanist’s dream.
With support from the Crawford Fund and the Australian Grains Genebank Mr Wanma and Mr Sosanika travelled to Victoria for training in developing ex-situ genebanks for seed conservation.
In the two weeks prior to their visit to the AGG, Mr Wanma and Mr Sosanika visited Kakadu in the Northern Territory for training in crop wild relative seed collecting. This part of their trip was supported through the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) Kew Gardens and the Australian Seed Bank Partnership.
Mr Wanma, who is a researcher and lecturer at the University of Papua, Indonesia and Mr Sosanika, who is a researcher at Papua New Guinea University of Technology, undertook the eight-day training course with Australian Grains Genebank leader Sally Norton, and Agriculture Victoria molecular plant breeding research scientist Katherine Whitehouse and collection technical officer Kevin Murray.
Dr Norton said the training was aimed at assisting the international researchers to develop improved programs to conserve the forest species they work with in their home countries for resource management and food security.
“The AGG has implemented best practice into its activities and is well positioned to provide this training to the international participants,” Dr Norton said.
While in Horsham Mr Wanma and Mr Sosanika received hands-on experience in setting up seed viability tests, collecting data, assessing data integrity and the management of data in specialised databases.
They also studied the principals of post-harvest seed threshing and cleaning, and the preparation of seeds for long-term storage, which was complemented with practical experience.
Mr Sosanika said the training had provided him with an applied understanding of genebank practices based on international genebank standards.
“We hope to share our new skills and knowledge with colleagues when we get home, resulting in improved conservation of forestry species in both Papua, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea,” he said.
Dr Norton said the training had resulted in strengthened connections.
“This has the potential to improve the exchange of germplasm and data and develop opportunities for collaborative research to more effectively use and conserve germplasm,” she said.