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Livestock Germplasm Center Safeguards Genetic Resources of Taiwan's Livestocks
With a outward appearance of avant-garde style design, the Taiwan Livestock Germplasm Center is the only two-story steel building inside the Council of Agriculture's Livestock Research Institute (LRI) in Hsinhua, Tainan County. The construction of the center, which is designed to resist magnitude 7.0 earthquakes with raft foundation, costed more than NT$100 million.
The center has also installed a 20-ton liquid nitrogen storage tank in the ultra-low temperature cell repository to ensure that the repository still gets liquid nitrogen it needed for 45 days even when the center is closed to the outside world due to traffic disruption caused by a natural disaster.
In other words, the germplasm center wants to create and demonstrate the image of "safety." The center stores genetic resources of all livestocks in Taiwan and its computerized ultra-low temperature cell repository has become a risk management location of species backup and a storeroom for frozen collection of diversified Taiwan species because it gets needed liquid nitrogen automatically. The Livestock Germplasm Center is the real-world "Noah's ark."
The establishment of Taiwan's livestock germplasm bank was decided in the 8th Executive Yuan Science and Technology Advisory Meeting in 1986 during which U.S. Advisor Sylvan Harold Wittwer made the suggestion that Taiwan set its short- and long-term goals for species collection. The LRI formulated a national plan in 1987 and began the set-up of a farm to reproduce small groups of native livestock in cooperation with animal department professors from National Taiwan University and National Chung Hsing University.
The livestock Germplasm Center now conserves genetic resources of 77 livestock species and strains, including 19 native and 38 foreign species as well as 20 new species/strains produced by breeding, said LRI Director Huang Ying-hau.
LRI Genetic Breeding Division Chief Wu Ming-cheh said that these species are provided by breeders, preservation sites, importers, local veterinary staff and farmers' association promotion staff. The germplasm bank preserves livestock genetic resources in animal, vegetation and microorganism categories. Livestock are divided into domestic animals and birds, vegetation are mainly feed crops, and microorganism include those in livestock digestive system and fermented compost of manure and urine.
Genetic resources are usually conserved in living form or frozen genetice materials. Preserving germplasm in living form must conserve a considerable number of mature individuals with reproductive potential, and continued funding and breeding space are necessary. Based on the afore-mentioned restraints and consideration of risk diversification, living germplasm are preserved in LRI braches and breeding stock reproduction grounds throughout Taiwan. Genetic materials preserved in frozen form include germ cell (sperm, egg and embryo), tissue, somatic cell, cell line, DNA and gene pool. Those conserved for less than 5 years are kept in freezers at -20 or -80 degrees Celsius, while those preserved for long term are conserved in liquid nitrogen storage tank at -185 to -196 degrees Celsius.
Germplasm preservation has significantly affected the development of domestic livestock market. Dr. Wu Ming-cheh cited Livestock Genetic Resources Information Network in Taiwan as saying that the network has assisted the breeding industry in selecting breeding stock, directly affecting annual swine output value of NT&920 million and indirectly helping the pig industry lower production cost by NT$3.6 billion. With regard to quality milk cow and Ten tons cow, germplasm preservation has affected annual cattle output value of NT$170 million.
Huang noted that as climate changes with global warming, such characteristics as heat-tolerant, coarse-resistant, disease-resistant, prolific and special flavor are helpful for native livestock species to adapt to newly changed earth environment, the LRI will strengthen study of these characteristics and their new applications in the future and try to integrate them into the current economic production system, making Taiwan a subtropical country of advanced livestock technology as well as a member of Asian germplasm banks through international exchange of Taiwan's precious genetic heritage.