Dr. Isaac Dramadri inspecting seed sorting

Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI) has rehabilitated the Makerere University Gene Bank at the Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute Kabanyolo (MUARIK). The gene bank is being utilized for   storing seed and conserving traditional varieties so that they are not lost.

The gene bank has a room for seed preparation. After harvesting seeds they are threshed, cleaned, sorted then undergo treatment and packaged before they are put in the gene bank.

The rehabilitated structure   was a gene bank that has benefited from other funding agencies like NORAD, AGRA but had met the expected standards.

The Director MaRCCI Dr. Richard Edema said the gene bank is an important addition and part of the centre’s continuous investment in research infrastructure to make the university farm better.

He said, besides utilization by the centre, the gene bank will be used by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, other research institutes and the entire Uganda.

The Director noted that seed storage is the main infrastructure units that has not been well built for the program interested in using seeds.

“Seed if not well stored goes bad very quickly and so that is why we have put that; I think so far we have put in 50 million shillings.  But we are still continuing to invest. So far we can keep thousands of seeds in there for MaRCCI, other colleagues and sister organizations like NARO”, Dr. Edema said.

Dr. Sharon Tusiime giving a talk about the various seed in the Gene bank

The centre has also recruited a Seed Specialist Dr. Sharon Tusiime Mbabaazi to run the Gene bank.

“We work with cow pea seed and sorghum seeds and after our breeding program research, there is need to store this seed from one season to another. So we needed a place to store these seeds so that it can maintain viability until the next growing season.

 This seed store is maintained at 160c and the humidity is about 55 and we pack our seed in the hermitic storage bags so that the seed is safe from any insect or high humidity and that helps it to store for a very long period of time”, Dr. Mbabazi explained.

Dr. Sharon Tusiime Mbabaazi said the center’s plan is to improve this facility when they get into long term storage of seed.

“Now this storage is important for the university and our country because normally we know that farmers lose seed from season to season because of poor storage conditions. Makerere and MaRCCI being under research we needed to have a program that shows the right way of storing seed and so this is one of the ways that seed should  be stored in very good conditions so that by the time you plant in the next season it is still viable”, She added.

Richard Tusiime a staff at MaRCCI

Richard Tusiime is another centre employee mainly handling seed reception. He said when materials come from the field, they are received in an area where they are dried, threshed, cleaned, sorted then they are packaged and treated but before that, create seed packing lists.

 According to Tusiime, these lists are entered in  the  system so that in future when  one needs a specific material, it can easily be retrieved  using those packing lists.

“We have computer systems that contains the Breeding Management System (BMS) that helps us track our breeding activities, then besides we have the excel sheets or excel system that we also use to track these materials in addition to BMS.

Staff of MaRCC. Richard Tusiime, Dr. Isaac Dramadri and Dr. Sharon Tusiime

Whenever we need the material, we recall that entry code and we can be able to retrieve that material from the gene bank. Within the gene bank, there are shelves, each accommodating a particular set of materials, and within that shelf number, we have  entries so when you want to track that material you call that entry code, lets say entry 550, you call it and go to that shelf and you automatically get it,” Tusiime explained.

Report compiled by:
Jane Anyango
Principal, Communication Officer, CAES

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