Iran Natural Resources Gene Bank

About the Natural Resources Gene Bank

Plants provide the air we breathe, they provide clean water, fuel, building materials, fibres, resins and we all rely on plants for food. Plants also play a vital role in combating climate change. Plants maintain the atmosphere and counteract climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide, turning it into plant material.

In the Iranian ecosystems, approximately 8000 plant species of 167 families and 1200 genera have been recorded. Today, nearly 2000 plant species of Iran are faced with the threat of extinction. Plants are dying out largely due to the activities of people. Clearing of primary vegetation, over-exploitation and climate change are all causing species losses.

Iran's Natural Resources Gene Bank aims to save plants of Iran with a focus on plants most at risk and most useful for the future. We have already successfully saved seeds from over 40% of the Iran's wild plant species. Our aim is to secure the safe storage of seed from 100% of the Iran’s bankable plants. We target plants and regions most at risk from climate change and the ever-increasing impact of human activities. We also save the seeds of the Iran's plant life faced with the threat of extinction, and those that could be of most use in the future.

The seeds we save are banked at Iran's Natural Resources Gene Bank at Research Institute of Forests and Ranglands (RIFR). We have seeds from all provinces around the Iran. We dry and clean the seeds and store them in sealed aluminum cases at +4°C and -20°C in the Natural Resources Gene Bank cold rooms. The Natural Resources Gene Bank holds more living plant diversity per square meter than anywhere on Iran and Middle East.

Latest seed count: 47,000 accessions from 3,500 wild plant species in storage


Future Plants

We already know of thousands of plants that are useful to people, but many more have the potential to be useful in the future. Over 30,000 species of plant are edible, but we use only a tiny fraction of these in commercial agriculture. In the future we may well need a much greater range of species, particularly if climate change alters growing seasons or the world’s population continues to increase and we run out of prime agricultural land. Plants are also vital for medicine. About 70% of the world’s population relies on traditional plant remedies for medicine. Only one in five plant species have been screened for use in medicine. Cures for diseases could lie in many of these unscreened species. We can't afford to let these plants, and the potential they hold, die out. 


History of the Natural Resources Gene Bank

Iran's Natural Resources Gene Bank, which opened in 1994, is located at RIFR in West Tehran and is providing space to store thousands of seed samples in large underground cold rooms. Iran's Natural Resources Gene Bank includes advanced seed research and processing facilities. The public can watch films on seed research and conservation in action in the laboratories. The objectives of Natural Resources Bank of Iran are:·                          

  • Identification and monitoring of plant genetic diversity·                          
  • Collection of wild plant Germplasm·                          
  • Conservation of wild plant species·                           
  • Regeneration of seed accessions·                          
  • Evaluation of seed accessions·                         
  •  Utilization and exploitation of wild plant resources·                          
  • Plant germplasm exchange

Natural Resources Gene bank (NRGB) organization chart

  1. Germplasm Collection and Identification Unit
    • Germplasm preliminary assessment subunit
  2. Seed storage and conservation Unit
  3. Seed regeneration Unit
  4. Seed characterization and evaluation Unit
  5. Cryopreservation Unit
  6. DNA barcoding Library
  7. Information and data management Unit


Facilities and laboratories• cleaning Lab• Germplasm Health Lab• Seed Technology Lab• Seed processing lab• Genetic fingerprinting lab (DNA barcoding)• Genetics and Physiology Laboratory• Tissue culture laboratory• Intermediate and long-term storage modules /cooling rooms• Dry room and germinators• Cryobank• Dried plants Collection• Research Greenhouse• Fields


How you can help...

Plants are under threat in today's world. Each day the world’s plants are more and more at risk. If we continue on our current path, we will lose a species a day for the next 50 years.

By making a donation to Iran's Natural Resources Gene Bank and adopting a seed, you can help one of the largest and most important conservation projects in Iran make a real difference.

Adopt a seed now and help Iran's Natural Resources Gene Bank save the Irans’s plant life for the future


Germplasm collection and Identification unit

The sampling strategy is determined by the precise mandate of the genebank. This strategy will include aspects of geographical coverage, sample size, genetic diversity considerations, etc. A comprehensive technical guide on collecting plant genetic resource providing many practical and managerial suggestions has been published recently (Salehi Shanjani 2018). Natural Resources Gene Bank (NRGB) aims to save plants of Iran with a focus of plants endemic, most at risk and most useful for the future. We collect seed/germplasm of plant species under threat and from habitats at risk around the country. We aim to secure the safe storage of 100% of the bankable plants of Iran.

Germplasm preliminary assessment subunit

The tasks of the of germplasm preliminary assessment unit are:·         Quality and quantity control of newly acquired germplasm ·         Control and fixes defects of germplasm package (Data field form, excel files, images and etc.)·         Providing Performance Report of Collector

Seed storage and conservation unit

The main activities of the unit are processing seed materials and storage for conservation, maintenance and monitoring viability and distribution of conserved gremplasm. Currently, two types of collections are held at seed storage and conservation unit.

  1. Active Collection: Active collection is stored for short to medium term. The collection generally held at temperature 5 C0 and Relative humidity (R/H) 25% -30%. Samples/Accessions consist in active collection are used for regeneration ,evaluation, research and distribution purposes.
  2. Base Collection: Base collection is stored under conditions which retain viability for long periods of time .the collection is held at temperature -18 C0 and Relative humidity (R/H) 25% -30%. Samples/Accessions in base collection do not use for distribution or research purposes, but only use to regenerate and viability monitoring when necessary.

The unit has 6 storage modules /cooling room to store the seed collection. Currently seed conservation unit has conserved approximately 46,406 accessions of plant genetic resources of about 4000 wild species.

Main activities at seed storage and conservation unit are:

  • Seed cleaning
  • Seed health
  • Seed processing
  • Seed storage behavior determination
  • Viability testing
  • Seed packaging
  • Seed storage
  • Germplasm exchange

Seed regeneration unit

Regeneration is the renewal of a seed sample by taking a random sample of seeds, sowing and growing the resulting plants under conditions so that the seeds harvested will possess the same characteristics as the original population.

Regeneration of seeds is required when the germination percentage has fallen below acceptable levels or shortage of seed occurs. As a rule, the germination percentage should be above 80%. Exceptions are made for accessions that are very difficult to regenerate (like some wild species). For these accessions percentages between 60 and 80 % can be accepted.

When regenerating germplasm a number of points must be taken into consideration (van Soest, 1990):

  • Selection within the original population as a result of regeneration procedures should be minimized.
  • No contamination with other samples, both during regeneration and seed handling should be allowed.
  • The breeding system of the crop in question is important. Cross pollinating crops need additional measures to assure proper isolation.
  • The population size of the original sample should be sufficiently large to avoid genetic drift.

Compared to self-pollinating species, cross pollinating species usually require a higher number of plants for regenerations to maintain the genetic variation that exists within the population. To minimize the impact that regenerations can have on the genetic identity of a seed sample, the frequency of regeneration should be kept as low as possible.

Plants that during regeneration clearly seem contaminants and do not belong to the total population are removed.

Seed characterization and evaluation unit

During the process of characterizing accessions, which is typically seen as the responsibility of the genebank curator, the expression of highly heritable characters, varying from morphological features and seed proteins to the latest molecular markers, will be determined to check the trueness-to-type of homogeneous samples. Such characters also enable an easy and quick discrimination between phenotypes and allow a simple grouping of the accessions. Scoring these also allows the establishment of systematic relationships between accessions and even crops, including their evolutionary relationships. Thus, this genebank activity directly facilitates the utilization of collections and allows the detection of mis-identifications, and possible errors made during other genebank operations.

Cryopreservation unit

The only technique ensuring long-term and safe storage of recalcitrant species is cryopreservation. This can be done by storing the samples in liquid nitrogen (–196°C). Cryopreservation is also an interesting method for the long-term storage of orthodox seed with short longevity, for very small samples as well as for species with very small seed.

DNA barcoding Library

DNA barcoding is a taxonomic method that uses a short genetic marker in an organism's DNA to identify it as belonging to a particular species. It differs from molecular phylogeny in that the main goal is not to determine patterns of relationship but to identify an unknown sample in terms of a preexisting classification. The most commonly used barcode region for plants is two chlorplastida genes.


Information and data management Unit

Most of the routine genebank operations (collection, conservation, regeneration characterization and evaluation) generate information which is key to the efficient functioning of the genebank, and to safe and efficient conservation. Natural Resources Gene Bank has computerized documentation systems which greatly facilitate the storage and maintenance of data, as well as its retrieval. The system can also be used for the processing and analyzing data, and thus facilitate operations. Information and data management unit also supports 1) natural resources seed database of Iran, 2) encyclopedia of seed, 3) Adopt A Seed website.