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What is EURISCO?

EURISCO is a web-based catalogue that provides accession-level information on germplasm maintained in ex situ plant collections in Europe. EURISCO is based on a European network of National Inventories that makes European accession-level biodiversity data easily and readily available everywhere in the world.

What does EURISCO contain?

The EURISCO Catalogue currently contains accession-level data on more than 2 million samples of crop diversity representing more than 6,700 genera and 45,000 species (genus-species combinations including synonyms and spelling variants) from 43 countries (updated March 2022). EURISCO uses international standards for information access and exchange on ex situ plant collections that enables users to search and access information on crops, forages, wild and weedy species, farmers' varieties and breeding lines using a wide set of search criteria.

What are EURISCO's objectives?

EURISCO serves as an online information source and European database for material maintained ex situ in European countries. The aim is to provide a central entry point for both passport data and phenotypic data on the plant genetic resources accessions. At the moment, 43 National Inventories (NIs) - with information on more than 2 million accessions - are accessible through the system. EURISCO is used by educators and students, scientists, breeders, policy makers and the wider community to achieve a better understanding of the plant genetic resources that have been conserved for present and future generations.

What is a NI?

The content and management of the National Inventories (NIs) is a national responsibility. National Inventories of Plant Genetic Resources are implemented and maintained by individual European Countries as a contribution to the implementation of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) and other international mechanisms such as the FAO Global Plan of Action, the Clearing House Mechanism (CHM) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). The NIs are expected to include food crop genetic resources as forages are also crops, forages, wild and weedy species (including crop wild relatives (CWR)), medicinal and ornamental plants, but not forest genetic resources. Cultivars, landraces, farmers' varieties, breeding lines, genetic stocks and research material are included. Together, the NIs are the backbone of EURISCO: in addition to relevant information for the PGR Search Catalogue, they may also contain other important information about PGR held in each country. The content of the NIs should be flexible and in accordance with the mandate of each country. The level of data management (i.e. the frequency of updating, the maintenance of data quality and completeness) and access to information is the responsibility of individual countries.

How can I create a NI?

The best way of creating a National Inventory (NIs) of PGR differs from country to country. However, five steps re proposed:

  1. Nomination of National Inventory Focal Point
  2. Identification of relevant collections
  3. Compilation of data
  4. Validation / harmonization / updating of data
  5. Provision of data
Many European genebanks have already computerized their data and in many cases the structure of these data is very similar to that of the FAO/IPGRI Multicrop Passport Descriptors (MCPD). This makes the compilation of data, covering a significant part of a country's ex situ collections very easy, and forms the basis for that country's NI.

What is a NFP?

A National Focal Point (NFP) is the person appointed by each country with the responsibility of managing and uploading the country's National Inventory (NI) of Plant Genetic Resources onto EURISCO in accordance with the agreed standards and procedures.

How data is provided to it?

The EURISCO web catalogue automatically receives data from the National Inventories (NIs), throught the countries' National Focal Points (NFPs).

What role do data providers play in the process?

National Focal Points (NFPs) are the links between national data sources and National Inventories (NIs). As data providers, NFPs hold the responsibility within their countries for the creation, development and national-level coordination of PGR inventories. They ensure the flow of data between NIs and EURISCO. Their roles are primarily technical, but NFPs are also expected to give clearance for the online publication of country passport data (more details in the "Terms of use").

Who uses EURISCO standards and why?

EURISCO standards are used by many organizations and individuals for the conservation, use of plant genetic resources and support the data exchange over the Internet. These user are:

  • Biodiversity data holders, network members and network developers
  • Breeders
  • Consumers of biodiversity data
  • Developers of collections - management systems
  • European Central Crop Databases
  • Genebanks
  • Research institutions
  • Universities / students

What are the EURISCO standards?

The EURISCO passport standards are based on the FAO/IPGRI Multi Crop Passports descriptors (MCPD), version 2.1, with four descriptors specifically added for EURISCO. The first of these descriptors identifies the National Inventory (NI) and the final three allow relevant information to be incorporated into EURISCO. This descriptor list is used for uploading data from the NIs to EURISCO.

How can I join EURISCO?

To join EURISCO and make your data available through the Catalogue, please contact your country's NFP and send your data to be included in the NI. The NFP will submit the updated NI to EURISCO for inclusion in the EURISCO Catalogue.

What is the uploader? And how does the upload mechanism work?

This is a dedicated page for the countries' National Focal Points (NFPs) to upload their National Inventories (NIs). The uploading mechanism is designed for the submission of the NIs to EURISCO. This mechanism is based on a step-by-step approach that allows checking of the information provided from NIs. The NFPs give their approval with a click and it becomes available online.

What is the advantage of this upload mechanism?

The system automatically receives data from the National Inventories (NIs), through countries' National Focal Points (NFPs). It allows checking and validation procedures to assist the NFPs in their efforts to improve the accuracy of their information at the national level before it goes online.

Who is responsable for EURISCO management and maintenance?

EURISCO is hosted at and maintained by IPK Gatersleben on behalf of the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, which acts as the legal entity of the Secretariat of the European Cooperative Programme for Plant Genetic Resources (ECPGR).

Who funds EURISCO?

In 2000, the European Union, through the 5th Framework Programme Project, approved funding for the European Plant Genetic Resources Information Infra-Structure (EPGRIS), for the development of National Inventories of plant genetic resources (PGR) and for the creation of a searchable catalogue of ex situ collections in Europe - EURISCO. The EURISCO Catalogue was publicly launched in September 2003 and since then the information accessible has increased including more than 2 million accessions. Funding has subsequently been made available from ECPGR, Bioversity International and in-kind contributions from NFPs, among others. Additional funds must be sought to further develop this important source of PGR information - EURISCO.

What role do the funding providers play in the process?

EURISCO has been made possible by funding from the above-mentioned sources. Throughout the year regular reports and other information on the ongoing development and implementation of EURISCO are delivered to the ECPGR Secretariat and to the EURISCO Advisory Committee, who advice for further development. A great deal of attention is paid to EURISCO's progress, milestones, and to building a strong network.

What are the most significant obstacles one may face?

The most significant obstacle is the need for NIs to be sustainably and constantly updated as well as for dissemination and implementation of software technology in order to accommodate the demands of data providers, stakeholder and users. Enthusiasm has been increasing throughout the years and we need to build on that interest, providing a valuable, user-friendly Catalogue suitable for all audiences, that is regularly updated and consistently current. We know expectations are high, and it is our duty to fulfill those expectations.

From where have audiences been accessing this information to date?

EURISCO is a 21st century effort to provide a resource for accession-level information on more than 1 million accessions made available by NIs. Currently, data can be found across the globe in many scattered databases and other resources. Other information resources exist both online and off, but even smart searchers are often overwhelmed by lists of sites found through search engines or by the lack of easy access to other sources of knowledge. Instead of seeking out plant genetic resources information on a particular site, EURISCO provides one-stop shop for plant genetic resources material maintained ex situ by European institutions. There has been a marked increase in the number of visitors to the Catalogue. This increase reflects the impact of the Catalogue as a one-stop shop for accession-level information on the material maintained in European ex situ collections, and of National Inventories (NIs) it makes available. Interest in the Catalogue is also geographically expanding: it is now being accessed from all over the world.

Is this just for the scientific community?

No! EURISCO has been developed to serve as a resource for everyone: scientists, breeders, genebank managers, teachers, students, policy makers and any interested person. With a wide range of functions, EURISCO is a valuable resource for anyone who has an interest in plant genetic resources.

What impact will this have on science? On society?

The EURISCO Catalogue will serve as a global resource for information on ex situ plant genetic resources maintained in European germplasm collections. Such an important information resource for Europe has never been available to the scientific community or society before. It provides one-stop shop for scientists, breeders, policy makers, educators, and the general public.

How will scientists and breeders use it?

Scientists and breeders will use it as a research source on plant genetic resources and as a central information source on ex situ material maintained in European germplasm collections. For decades, scientists, breeders and the genebank community have called for the establishment of a database such as EURISCO. Having a common resource where scientists and breeders across the globe can access and share information on PGR contributes to sustainable development and conservation as well as worldwide food security. EURISCO can also be used for information sharing and collaboration between partners, stakeholders and communities.

How will students use it?

EURISCO will allow students to browse through PGR maintained ex situ for distributions, conservation status, etc. The site will provide students with one common web location where they can learn about plants that are being conserved in Europe. This one-stop shop for information about the location, origin, sample status, geographical distribution and conservation status of PGR will provide a better understanding of how conservation is being dealt with in coverage and scope, improving the students' knowledge base.

How will the public at large use it?

EURISCO is a database and learning tool about ex situ material maintained in European institutions. This Catalogue can provide information about plants that might be found in your country, or even home town. EURISCO provides the public with easy access to information about biodiversity conservation and sustainable use for food security in the same way that a guidebook can help travelers to find their destination.

What is the one thing you want the general public to know about EURISCO?

The European scope of ex situ conservation and its richness are at the top of the list. A system like EURISCO encourages and provides access to the information necessary to better understand the distribution, conservation, and status of PGR by defining the crops that are cultivated, breeding lines, traditional cultivars and wild species, and by defining the level of human involvement in the conservation and distribution of these species worldwide.

How will you ensure information on this website stays current?

Based on the user feedback, the EURISCO web site has been re-designed and its content updated. In the process, the search components have been improved to provide a more user-friendly front end. We will work as quickly and efficiently as possible to provide users with access to the re-designed site. The site will be maintained updated based on new developments, news and activities; the database content is dependent on constant updating of the National Inventories (NIs) by the National Focal Points (NFPs). For EURISCO to succeed, it must be updated continuously with regular contributions from the NFPs, scientists, and users to ensure it stays current.

What other organisations does EURISCO link with?

EURISCO links with ECPGR, FAO/WIEWS for institutional ISO codes, GBIF as a data provider, and country/NI data providers and NFPs.