On 1 October 2018 the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) shared with Dubai Municipality more than 800 seeds of five threatened, indigenous wild plant species from its gene bank.
The seed transfer forms part of ICBA’s program on collecting, preserving and transferring plant genetic material to different institutions around the world.
According to scientists, the five species are considered threatened in the UAE due to different factors, including climate change and urbanization.
The seed package includes 500 seeds of Ochradenus aucheri, 100 seeds of Salvia macilenta, 20 seeds of Indigofera oblongifolia, and 100 seeds of Senna alexandrina and Senna italica each.
Dr. Mohammed Shahid, a geneticist at ICBA, said that the seeds were collected between 2007 and 2013 during various botanical expeditions by ICBA scientists across the UAE in an effort to preserve them. The species are ornamental and will be used by Dubai Municipality for landscaping, Dr. Mohammed Shahid added.
While receiving the seeds, Mr. Abdulrahiman Isak, an agriculture engineer at Dubai Municipality, said: “I would like to thank ICBA for providing seed samples for our trials. I was astonished to see that ICBA's work is so closely linked to challenges of water, environment, income and food security. I am very happy to see the center's applied research-for-development work aimed at addressing the agricultural challenges in marginal environments, including assessment of natural resources, climate change adaptation, crop productivity and diversification, aquaculture and bioenergy and policy analysis.”
Established in 2000, ICBA’s gene bank currently stores over 14,000 germplasm accessions of about 250 salt-tolerant and salt-loving plant species from more than 150 countries.
Over the years, the center has also gathered around 250 seed samples of 70 wild plant species in the UAE. This germplasm now serves as a unique source for researchers working with salt- and heat-tolerant plants.
Under the program on plant genetic resources, the center’s scientists conduct regular expeditions to collect and conserve some of the economically important species which are native to the UAE and might be under threat due to overgrazing and expansion of human settlements.
This work has helped, for example, to save Halfa grass, a rare plant species in the UAE, from possible extinction. Scientists have also uncovered and documented eight plant species previously unknown to exist in the country.