Intensive agriculture has relied on the large scale production of genetically uniform crops. Unfortunately, as genetic diversity decreases, a crop's vulnerability to pests, diseases, and adverse climatic conditions increases.
Gene banks are maintained to conserve genetic diversity. This prevents the loss of genetic traits and acts as a source of genetic material from which improved crop varieties and bio-based products can be developed.
Canada's wild plants, including rare and threatened species, face a similar problem. As populations decrease, the species are in danger of losing beneficial genetic traits. Plant germplasm is living plant tissue from which new plans can be grown. By conserving germplasm from all plants, it is possible to protect them from extinction.
All germplasm stored at Plant Gene Resources of Canada (PGRC) is in the form of seeds. Other plant parts such as a leaf, a stem, pollen or even a few cells can be used to regenerate plants through tissue culture techniques.