First PRO-GRACE international events successfully run

The Annual Progress Meeting and the 1st International Workshop and Training School on the Sustainable Management of Plant Genetic Resources held in Chania, Greece, gathered 64 participants from 20 countries

The beginning of October was a busy week for the PRO-GRACE Consortium, with the first in-person meeting of project partners and two international events dedicated to the sustainable management of plant genetic resources (PGR).  All the events took place in Crete, Greece.

2 October – Annual Progress Meeting

The Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania kindly hosted the first offline get-together of the project consortium, which offered an excellent opportunity to get to know each other better, update everyone on the progress of each work package, and discuss and clarify issues, as well as agreeing on the next steps for the following months.

3-4 October - International Workshop on the Sustainable Management of Plant Genetic Resources

The first international event of the project was very successful, gathering 62 participants from 20 countries, mainly European, with 225 online participants joining from all over the world.

The Workshop featured talks by PGR managers and research leaders from the public and private sectors on PGR information systems, ex situ and in situ PGR management, PGR access and benefit sharing, technologies and scientific services for PGR management, as well as PGR evaluation and valorization.

The participants also had a chance to hear from representatives of the existing EMPHASIS, DISSCO, ELIXIR and METROFOOD European Research Infrastructures. They shared valuable insights on the establishment, timing and process of a European research infrastructure.

One of the highlights of the workshop was an interactive session in which all the participants had the opportunity to discuss their ideas in small groups and offer feedback on aspects important for making the GRACE Research Infrastructure a reality. Participants shared numerous useful points about services for future users (the PGR community and other stakeholders), as well as visions for the structure, finance and governance of a prospective infrastructure.

5-6 October - Training School on the Sustainable Management of Plant Genetic Resources

The Entry Level Training School was addressed to managers of small PGR collections, breeders, and other people interested in PGR management. The goal was to provide basic training on the following topics:

- Introduction to PGRs
- Guidelines and principles for ex situ and in situ PGR management
- Basic phytosanitary techniques
- Informatic tools for accessing/providing information related to PGRs
- Omics technologies for the management of PGRs.

Katrina Karklina, a PhD student at the Institute of Horticulture in Latvia who attended the workshop and training school, appreciated the opportunity to learn from experts who provided “advice based on real-life experience, not just what’s written in documents,” as well as sharing “experience from different countries.” She also valued the inclusion of the young people who will follow in the footsteps of those who retire.

Originally from Algeria, Sarra Yataghene is working on a Master’s degree at the Hungarian University of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She is “really grateful” that fellowships covering food and lodging at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania “gave opportunities to students like me,” enabling them to attend. “We learned a lot.” She was particularly impressed by “the human experience,” both in terms of networking opportunities and learning about applied science and useful techniques.

The workshop and training school were productive for experienced scientists as well as younger ones. As Bela Bartha of the Swiss NGO ProSpecieRara pointed out, a gathering of scientists from different backgrounds enables everyone to “get a bigger picture. Colleagues take in new ideas to integrate as well,” which can fruitfully “broaden the picture of PGR in the room” and enable professionals with various specializations to make their work complementary.

More photos of the event are available here

Photo credits: Darya Chernokova, Euroseeds and Lisa Radinovsky, MAICH