Ms Nokuthula Myeza
In Vitro Genebank Manager

Plant Breeding Division
ARC-Vegetable & Ornamental Plants
Private Bag X293, Pretoria, 0001
Tel: (012) 808 8000 (Internal: 068335)

​The in vitro genebank is a multi-crop, multi-type facility, which is responsible for safe and secure in vitro conservation of plant germplasm. It holds more than 2000 accessions comprising of potato, sweet potato, cassava, Plectranthus, indigenous flower bulbs (Lachenalia, Ornithogalum, Eucomis), yam and devils claw [Harpagophytum procumbens (Burch.)].  The genebank forms an integral part of potato and sweet potato active breeding programs at the ARC. It is also serves as the basis of South Africa's seed potato certification scheme (  Accessions maintained in the genebank are utilized for research on plant pathology and cultivation.

The facility provides the following services to researchers and industry:

1.     In vitro maintenance of germplasm: The genebank has two laboratories, which are housed in two separate buildings - the public good genebank laboratory and the commercial genebank laboratory.  The commercial genebank houses the National Potato Cultivar Collection, which consists of open varieties (BP1, Up To Date, Hertha, Buffelspoort, Mnandi, Van der Plank and Darius) and varieties kept under contract agreement with private clients (e.g. SIMBA and McCain), all of which have been tested to ensure that they are free from viruses such as Potato virus V, Y, X, S, M and  A, Potato Leaf Roll Virus, and bacterial infections by  Soft Rot enterocacerius) and Ralstonia solanacearum.  In turn, the public good genebank houses the potato collection which consists of breeding lines and other genetically diverse potato germplasm, a sweet potato collection, a root and tuber crops collection (cassava, devils claw, garlic), Plectranthus, yam, and indigenous flower bulbs collection (Lachenalia and Eucomis flower bulbs). Accessions of all these cultivars are safely stored as active collection in the form of in vitro plantlets, in test tubes, and maintained in specialized, controlled growth cabinets.

​Storage cabinets (a) where accessions of potato cultivars are kept in the form of in vitro plantlets (b).

2.     Quarantine: This is a first stop- registered and approved facility for newly imported in vitro plant germplasm.  Such germplasm is processed, DNA profiled and screened against quarantine pests, viruses and bacteria as per the import permits requirement.  The quarantine facility is audited by DAFF biannually.


Quarantine facility (a), DNA profiling (b) and bacterial testing (c) at the ARC-VOP in vitro genebank

3.     In vitro establishment: This involves establishment of multi-crops from in vivo to in vitro conditions. Species that are established in this facility include potato, sweet potato, cassava, orchids, Lachenalia flower bulbs, Ornithogalum flower bulbs, Eucomis flower bulbs, strawberries and roses. In vitro establishment of other various vegetable, ornamental and medicinal plants can be done on request from clients.

4.     Mass propagation: The genebank provides a rapid multiplication service of in vitro plants. This includes propagation and supply of in vitro plantlets of multi-crops including virus-free potato, virus indexed sweet potato, virus indexed Lachenalia flower bulbs, disease-free strawberry, virus-free cassava, devils claw, orchids, and any other vegetable and/or ornamental crop species on request from clients.

Mass propagation of plants in the laboratory​ ​ ​
​ ​Mass propagation of plants in the laboratory​ ​ ​

Hardened-off plants in the greenhouse


5.     Virus elimination: The ARC in vitro genebank has the capacity to eliminate viruses from plant material. This service plays a vital role in supplying virus-free material to crop industries, which include the potato, sweet potato and garlic industries. It is also instrumental in supplying virus-free mother material of new potato cultivars in South Africa. Virus-infected promising advanced potato breeding lines to be used for further selections in the country's potato breeding program are made virus-free using meristem cultures, heat  and chemotherapy treatments. Virus-infected sweet potato, cassava, garlic and indigenous ornamentals are also made virus-free on request from private clients or other research institutes.

6.     Training: The in vitro genebank provides training on basic tissue culture principles.  Upon completion of the training course, participants are presented with certificates of attendance.        

7.     Research & Development:  Research is a vital component of the in vitro genebank wherein researchers and technicians are continuously investigating new and improved in vitro cultivation practices for improved efficiency and output.  In addition, numerous tertiary students are trained and mentored each year as part of their postgraduate studies.  Most recently, cryopreservation research has also been initiated with the overall objective of establishing a cryobanking facility within the in vitro genebank. 


  • Alleman J., Laurie S.M., Thiart S. and Vorster H.J. 2004. Sustainable production of root and tuber crops (potato, sweet potato, indigenous potato, cassava) in Southern Africa. J. South African Journal of Botany 70 (1):60-66

  • Kleynhans, R., Myeza, P.N., Laurie, S. M., Visser, A., Jansen van Rensburg, W.S. and Adebola, P.O. (2013). Collection, maintenance and utilization of plant genetic resources at Agricultural Research Council (ARC)-Roodeplaat Vopi, South Africa. Acta Horticulture. 1007, 993-998

  • Laurie S.M., Calitz F.J., Adebola P.O., Lezar, A. (2013). Characterization and evaluation of South African sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas (L.) LAM) land races. South African Journal of Botany 85: 10-16.

  • Laurie, S. M., Myeza, P. N., Mulabisana, J., Mabasa, K., Thompson, A., Greyling, R., Cloete, M. and Adebola, P. O. (2015). In vitro propagation and disease testing as a means to producing healthy planting materials. Acta Horticulture

  • Lezar, A. 2009. South African Minituber Producers and Nuclear Minituber Producers meeting held at the ARC-Roodeplaat. Popular publication, CHIPS magazine

  • Mihiretu H., Du Toit, E., Laurie, S., Steyn, M., Greyling, R. and Myeza, N. (2014). Effect of long-term in vitro sub-culturing on quality degeneration of sweet potato varieties: Morpho-anatomic assessment and simple sequence repeats (ssr) analysis. Journal of Agricultural Science and Technology A&B 4(10A): 811-821

  • Myeza, P.N. and Visser, A. (2013). Agricultural Research Council's potato in vitro genebank. Acta Horticulture. 1007, 727-731

  • Osler, F. and Myeza, P.N. (2016). (SAMPRO) Training Workshop 2016: Brushing up on all aspects relating to tissue culture and mini tuber production. Popular publication, CHIPS magazine, 30:3

  • Thiart S. 2005. Management of microbial contaminants in the tissue culture Laboratory. Popular publication, CHIPS magazine, 19:48

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