The Natural Resources Institute Finland has a statutory responsibility to maintain genetic resources and to conduct research relating to genetic resources used in primary production. Material in conservation programmes is valuable as such, but serves also current and future breeding as well as genetic research.
Primary-sector genetic resources include genes, genetic combinations, and different genetic forms of species used in agriculture, forestry, horticulture, aquaculture and fisheries, which have value either now or in the future. The value of genetic resources varies according to different environment conditions and breeding aims. It is important to preserve wide genetic diversity to adapt for the future’s changing conditions.
The Natural Resources Institute Finland is responsible for the preservation and conservation of genetic resources and to promoting their sustainable use. The work is coordinated by a Advisory Body for Genetic Resources appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
The scope of the work is based on national plant and animal genetic resources programmes. A fish genetic resources programme will be established this year, and the national plant and animal genetic resources programmes will be revised. Together these programmes will form Finland’s national genetic resources programme for the primary production sector.
The means of conserving genetic resources and promoting their sustainable use vary according to the primary sector.
Field crops are mainly conserved by storing seeds in the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre NordGen in Alnarp. Duplicates are stored in a seed vault built in the permafrost on Svalbard.
Horticultural plants are conserved vegetatively in the field collection, in in vitro cultures and as tissue in liquid nitrogen tanks.
The genetic resources of domesticated animals are preserved both by rearing different breeds of animals on partners’ farms and by freezing embryos and semen in liquid nitrogen. Finland’s native breeds of dog are also included in the national animal genetic resources programme.
The conservation of forest genetic resources focuses on not only conserving genetic diversity but also promoting processes that maintain diversity. This is done in situ in genetic reserve forests as well as ex situ in collections of living trees. Metsähallitus is an important partner, and the private sector also plays a role.
Fish genetic resources are usually conserved in natural habitats. The genetic resources of economically valuable vulnerable species are conserved in the Natural Resources Institute Finland’s hatcheries and milt banks. Fish eggs and juvenile fishes are used to revive fish populations and to improve opportunities for fishing.
Each country is responsible for the conservation of its own genetic resources. All work relating to genetic resources is also tied to efforts under international conventions. Finland’s national genetic resources programmes are actively represented in international expert networks.
Photo on top of the page: Janne Lehtinen