Main facilities involved in the ex-situ conservation of Irish plant genetic resources

The range of indigenous plant genetic resources in Ireland is relatively narrow but the collection and preservation of these resources could make an important contribution to future crop research both at home and abroad. Most agriculture seeds can be stored successfully for very long periods of time in storage facilities called genebanks.  Plant genetic resources are conserved by both public sector bodies and non-governmental organisations in Ireland.  More information is provided by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.


National Genebank

The Department of Agriculture, Food & the Marine runs the national genebank.  It is located at Backweston, Leixlip, Co. Kildare. Facilities have been upgraded and expanded at the Backweston genebank and its remit broadened to include safety duplicate storage for other collections held in the State. This provides a back up for any accidental loss of germplasm in other Irish genebanks and enables its replacement.

The Backweston genebank functions as a designated location to deposit:

  • Seed of national importance representing Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA).
  • Seed from old indigenous varieties and landraces of cereals (Oats, Wheat and Barley) that were once commonly cultivated in Ireland.  The Backweston genebank also conserves cereal breeding lines from the various cereal crop breeding programmes undertaken by the State over the past century.
  • An important ex situ collection of Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) is maintained in the National Genebank in Backweston. This collection contains extensive material provided by other institutions including Genetic Heritage Ireland.


Tops Potato Centre

The potato is of immense historical, commercial and cultural significance to Ireland. The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine maintain a potato genebank at the Tops Potato Centre, located in Raphoe, Co. Donegal. Comprising over 400 unique potato varieties, the oldest of which pre-date the Irish Famine, the collection includes old and modern Irish varieties and varieties from abroad. The accessions are held both in vitro and in situ.

Some of the more commercially successful potato varieties grown in Ireland today were bred at the Teagasc Plant Breeding Station, Oakpark Research Centre, Co. Carlow. Teagasc run the only commercial potato breeding station in Ireland and maintain an extensive potato variety collection for use in their breeding programme.


Irish Seed and Plant Genebank

This seed and genebank is located in Trinity College Botanic Garden, Dublin.  It was set up by Genetic Heritage Ireland.


Irish Seed Savers Association

Irish Seed Savers Association exists as a living testimony to the richness and wealth of the agricultural legacy of our ancestors. Irish Seed Savers Association was founded by Anita Hayes in 1991.  It is currently located at Scariff in Co. Clare.  Key collections include:

  • A Native Apple Collection containing over 140 distinct varieties
  • A Native Irish Grain Collection with 48 varieties
  • The establishment of a Seed Bank containing more than 600 rare and endangered vegetable varieties
  • The establishment of a Native Brassica Collection