Seventeenth meeting of ECPGR's Steering Committee

Seventeenth meeting of ECPGR's Steering Committee

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National Coordinators met from 30 May–1 June 2023 in Portugal to review activities from 2019–2023 and launch a new 5-year ECPGR programme

The ECPGR Steering Committee held its 17th (end-of-phase) meeting in Oeiras, Portugal, from 30 May–1 June 2023, gathering National Coordinators from 29 countries and observers from NordGen, the Secretariat of the FAO International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the European NGOs.

The meeting, hosted by the Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agrária e Veterinária (INIAV), took note of the progress made during Phase X (2019–2023), noting that the complementary funding from EC projects and bilateral projects sponsored by Germany enabled several activities to be accomplished. In particular, the Plant Genetic Resources Strategy for Europe (PGR Strategy) was published in 2021, orienting the ECPGR objectives for the coming future. The European Evaluation Network (EVA) prompted successful public–private partnerships, involving more than 90 partners carrying out evaluation trials over more than 100 sites across Europe. The European Search Catalogue for Plant Genetic Resources (EURISCO) was further developed, increasingly receiving phenotypic data and getting prepared to also host in situ crop wild relative population data. The journal Genetic Resources, with the editorial office hosted by the ECPGR Secretariat,became a new reference point for free publishing and free reading for the genetic resources community.

The Steering Committee unanimously decided to continue ECPGR into a new five years phase (2024–2028), with a consolidated Secretariat of four staff members, based at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT in Rome, Italy. Operations at the Secretariat should be sufficiently equipped not only to coordinate and support the existing 24 Working Groups, but also to continue the experience of the EVA networks, the Genetic Resources journal, and the AEGIS coordination. The hosting of EURISCO was re-confirmed at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) – Gatersleben, Germany, fully funded for the next phase. Updated ECPGR Rules of Procedure and Terms of Reference for Operational Bodies and Mechanisms will guide the operations of the network and its members, together with a Table of Priority activities, which is defining how best ECPGR can contribute to the targets of the PGR Strategy. The Steering Committee appreciated the start of the activities of the recently established Working Group on Cryopreservation and recommended its continuation. A completely new initiative and new approach were adopted for the establishment of a Network of European Genebank Managers, which will start operating as a self-funded mechanism, initially under the coordination of the Director of NordGen, Lise Lykke Steffensen, with the overall aim to strengthen the management of European genebanks by exchange of knowledge, cooperation and capacity building.

A budget of ca. €3 million for the next five years was approved for the ECPGR programme, with the understanding that additional carry-over funds and new voluntary contributions or other project funds will be necessary to maintain the operations at the same level as in the past phase.

The Steering Committee agreed to the continuation of the ECPGR Secretary, Lorenzo Maggioni, in his position for another three years, until the end of 2026, while the ExCo Chair, Marianne Lefort, wished to step down at the end of this year and called for the recruitment of a new ExCo Chair.

The local hosts of INIAV were sincerely thanked for their kind and efficient hospitality.