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The Solanaceae Germplasm Bank at the Botanical Garden of Nijmegen

Volume 2 Number 9 - December 1997

Barendse, Gerard W.M. (Director), and van der Weerden, Gerard M.(Curator)

More than thirty years ago the Botanical Garden of Nijmegen initiated its collection of Solanaceae. Especially in the last decade our germplasm collection of Solanaceae has been reorganised and considerably expanded. This has resulted in probably the most extensive germplasm collection of non-tuber-bearing Solanaceae in the world. Our Solanaceae genebank constitutes an excellent complement to the Center of Genetic Resources, Wageningen, the Netherlands, which harbours the tuber-bearing Solanaceae which includes landraces and cultivars. Together with other international institutes, especially the University of Birmingham, our garden has participated in the EU funded project to develop a European Solanaceae Information Network (ESIN) database.


Conservation of the genetic resources of the Solanaceae family is the main objective of the build-up of our germplasm collection of non-tuber-bearing Solanaceae which are mostly of wild origin. Within this framework seeds and other plant material is made available for research and education. Our ex situ conservation also includes some rare and threatened species of this plant family. Another major objective is to create a Solanaceae database, based on and compatible with the ESIN database. This databse would collate our accessions with the dispersed taxonomic information and all available kinds of research information in the literature, and to make this information accessible via the Internet, like the Agricultural Genome Information System (AGIS), an integrated system for agricultural genome analysis at the National Agricultural Library (NAL), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), USA.

The Solanaceae Germplasm Bank

A valuable germplasm collection of Solanaceae seeds and/or plant material, preferably from known wild origin has been acquired through collection and exchange, raised to seed for genebanking, taxonomically identified, and documented by description, photography and collecting of herbarium material.

Our botanic garden has excellent greenhouse facilities to grow Solanaceae all year round under different light and temperature regimes. These facilities have proven to be very important for raising plants to seed. A sizeable number of our accessions had to be grown for several years, often with supplementary lighting in winter before they would produce seed. In addition, we have been experimenting with soil mixtures for optimal plant development, especially for those accessions which had to be grown for several years. At present our substrate consists of a commercial peat-based potting soil which is mixed with hydrophobic rockwool to prevent detoriation of the soil structure. All plants are grown in individual containers to accommodate their requirements with regard to watering, fertilizer etc., to prevent disease spread via root contact, and also to be able to move plants as necessary from warm to cold greenhouses or outside in the summer. Growing Solanaceae at our latitude has the advantage that there is no danger of escape of known weedy species since they will not survive our winters. We have started a programme of biological pest control for the Solanaceae.

Harvested seeds are cleaned and carefully dried at room temperature, put in labelled paper bags which in turn are stored together with silica gel in freezer boxes at ca. 1ºC in a cold room. The germination capacity is checked as deemed necessary, based on experience, ranging between one to five years after harvest. Quite a few of our accessions were derived from seeds collected in the wild many years ago (e.g. by R.N. Lester from Birmingham University, U.K.) and would be very hard to acquire again. These are now successfully grown in our greenhouses to provide seeds for our genebank. Finally, the successful maintenance and further expansion of our Solanaceae germplasm collection is to a large extent mad possible by a capable and motivated team of collaborators at our botanic garden.


The value of a genebank is also determined by the extent of its documentation system and its accessibility. In our case all newly acquired accessions get an unique accession number which together with its accompanying information is entered in our database. As the acquired material is raised to bloom and seed set, further information related to taxonomic identification, photography and collection of herbarium material is added to the database and finally collated with information extracted from the literature. Beside the database containing our accessions we have also built an extensive computer-based reference system consisting of a bibliography of literature on Solanaceae sensu lato and references to the taxonomic Solanaceae literature in our possession. It is our aim for the future to integrate our two databases into the above mentioned ESIN database for public access via the Internet. At present already some information on our accessions can be viewed at our WWW page at

Status and Funding

The Botanical Garden belongs to the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Nijmegen and is closely associated with research programmes at the Department of Experimental Botany and the Department of Experimental Ecology. Part of the greenhouse facilities and staff are allocated to the Solanaceae germplasm bank and consequently basic funding for the maintenance of the genebank is ensured by our university for the foreseeable future. However, additional external funding e.g. via EU programmes like ESIN is deemed necessary and being pursued.

The Future

A further expansion of our germplasm bank as well as realisation of the outlined objectives are anticipated. The expansion of our genebank is not only aimed at acquiring more accessions but just as importantly to enhance the quality of the collection e.g. by taxonomic identification of doubtful accessions, by replacing accessions with wild-collected material, etc. Furthermore, we are striving further internationalization of our genebank by expanding our international collaboration with researchers/institutes involved in Solanaceae research at all levels, e.g. taxonomic, molecular, biotechnical, physiological studies, crop science. An important step in this direction will be the organisation of the 5th International Solanaceae Conference which will take place in the year 2000 in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.