A team headed by Dr. Mahmoud Solh has won the prestigious Gregor Mendel Innovation Prize for its success in preserving an international gene bank in the midst of that country’s five-year and ongoing civil war.
The gene bank of the Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) stores one of the world's biggest collections of barley, faba bean and lentil crops, along with ancient varieties of durum and bread wheat.
“This collection is a uniquely rich resource for agricultural scientists and plant breeders seeking genetic material suitable for national and international breeding programs, especially for developing drought-tolerant and disease-and-pest-resistant varieties,” says the Gregor Mendel Foundation.
“The gene bank team in Syria continued monitoring the gene bank storage conditions despite the difficult situation of civil war, and safeguarded the resources by sending duplicates of the genetic material to other gene banks, such as one in Spitzbergen, an island in Norway.
“Preservation of this global heritage is crucial to the international community and commands its highest respect. ,” the foundation says.