The U.S. agriculture is primarily based upon crop plants that are native to other parts of the world. Introduced plant germplasms re critical for providing new genes to improve our crops that underpin national and global food security. The mission of the Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing Research Unit is to collect, maintain, evaluate, characterize and distribute needed plant seed samples to the requesters for basic and applied plant research.
The germplasm conservation and research activities undertaken by this project are consistent with the USDA mission and established priorities. They can be summarized as the collection, preservation, evaluation, and utilization of plant germplasm. We use current technology and information system to best achieve germplasm conservation goals. Acquisition technology has been enhanced recently by use of geographic information systems technology and global positioning system devices when planning and carrying out collecting trips. Genetic characterization of germplasm collection is being enhanced by use of various DNA-based markers such as simple sequence repeats or microsatellites, single nucleotide polymorphism markers and genotype by sequencing, in conjunction with established morphologic descriptors. Seed storage facilities are in place to allow relatively long-term storage of original and regenerated seed lots, as well as seeds of species that do not store well at 4° C, by using sealed packets and a temperature of -18° C.