Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

NGRL Welcomes New Visiting Research Scholar


Dr. Nouman Tahir joined NGRL as a Visiting Research Scholar on December 1, 2014. Dr. Tahir recently completed his PhD from Quaid-i-Azam University in Pakistan. He will work with NGRL plant pathologists on quarantine pathology problems.

Dr. Tahir


NGRL Welcomes New Visiting Scientist


Dr. Mengji Cao joined NGRL as a Visiting Research Scholar in October 2014. He completed his PhD in Molecular Plant Pathology at Southwest University in Chongqing, China. After his PhD, he served as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California-Riverside in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology. Dr. Cao will work with NGRL scientists on the application of high throughput sequencing technologies for the detection and characterization of viruses of quarantine significance.

Mengji Cao


NGRL Scientist Conducts Crop Wild Relative Workshop for Native American community in Michigan

Botanist Karen Williams, with the National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, was the lead instructor at the Crop Wild Relatives Workshop, hosted by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), at Baraga, MI on August 5 – 6, 2014. The workshop was sponsored by the Cedar Tree Institute, as a part of their 2014 Zaagkii Wings and Seeds Project, and was in partnership with the U. S. Forest Service (USFS) Eastern Region and the USDA/ARS.
Crop Wild Relative Workshop for Native American community in Michigan


The workshop introduced the tribal members to crop wild relatives, native plants that are closely related to food crops, with a major focus on the crop wild relatives that are native to the United States. Conservation and use of these plants is a critical element of future food security. Speakers from the Chicago Botanic Garden and Ferris State University also made presentations on seed collecting and documenting wild plant populations.

In addition to receiving classroom training, workshop participants went to a cranberry bog on KBIC tribal lands to practice the methodology used by ARS and USFS to document and study wild populations of the two native species of cranberry. Fruits of these species have been collected by Native American Communities in the Upper Midwest and other locations for generations These wild species may also contain traits valuable for cranberry crop improvement. The goal of these studies is to identify cranberry populations that may be suitable for designation as in situ reserves for the species.


NGRL Welcomes 2014 Summer Interns

Two Pathways interns are working in NGRL this summer. Michael Shang (left) and Eliot Fenton (right) are both 2014 graduates of River Hill High School. Michael will attend Johns Hopkins University in the fall. Eliot will enroll at the University of Maryland-College Park.  

NGRL Welcomes New Scientist

The National Germplasm Resources laboratory welcomed Dr. Dimitre Mollov to USDA-ARS as a new permanent scientist (Plant Pathologist) effective October 21, 2013. Dr. Mollov joins ARS from the University of Minnesota, where he obtained his PhD in Plant Pathology in 2012. He looks forward to working with collaborators and stakeholders on problems related to quarantine pathogens that infect plant germplasm. Dr. Mollov can be reached at or 301-504-8624.


Dr. Dimitre Mollovsm

World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference, Second Edition Published

John Wiersema

Dr. John Wiersema, a Botanist in the National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, and collaborator Dr. Blanca Leon recently published the second edition of World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference. This 1,336 page reference book covers more than 12,000 economically important vascular plants that are used for a wide range of human activities. Such plants provide food and food additives, materials, fuels, medicines, forage, raw genetic material for plant breeding, or environmental and social effects. The coverage also includes poisonous plants and weeds.  The content of entries conforms to international standards and includes the accepted scientific name, synonyms, economic importance, common names in many languages, and geographic distribution of the species.  This new edition, published 14 years after the highly regarded first edition by Drs. Wiersema and Leon, includes twice the data of the previous version with almost 2,700 more plant entries and many more common names in script-based languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, and Chinese. As both collaboration among global plant science researchers and the international movement of plant material increases, this comprehensive reference will be indispensible for the proper and standardized identification and communication about economically important plants. World Economic Plants: A Standard Reference, Second Edition was published by CRC Press on January 7, 2013 and can be ordered online at

The Svalbard Seed Vault


Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Popular press stories have described the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as the “Doomsday Vault” or the ‘Noah’s Ark for Seeds”. Located on a Norwegian archipelago in the arctic permafrost, the vault provides long-term back-up storage of global collections of important food-crop seeds. The facility is managed as a collaboration between the Global Crop Diversity Trust, the Nordic Genetic Resource Center, and the Government of Norway. The agreement for countries that store seeds here is similar to that of a safety deposit box in a bank, where only the original depositor has access to the contents of their box.

The NGRL is helping the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System deposit back-up samples of many important seeds from its collections at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. As of the early 2013, the U.S. has deposited almost 70,000 accessions (distinct samples) of more than 1,600 taxa of seeds crops at the vault.

For more information on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, see

GRIN-Global Wins Technology Transfer Award

The GRIN-Global software won the 2012 "Excellence in Technology Transfer" award from the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer Midwest Region. On behalf of the GRIN-Global Team, Pete Cyr and Marty Reisinger accepted the award at the Awards Ceremony in Dayton, Ohio, on August 14, 2012.

GRIN-Global Version 1.0 Released

December 14, 2011 

The USDA/ARS, Bioversity International, and the Global Crop Diversity Trust announced the release of GRIN-Global System version 1.0. Please click here for the complete announcement: GRIN-Global 1.0 Announcement (.pdf)  

Release of the Atlas of Guatemalan Crop Wild Relatives

December 2, 2011

Participants at the Atlas of Guatemalan Crop Wild Relatives Launch
Left to right: César Azurdia, National Council of Protected Areas of Guatemala, Henry Schmick, US Embassy in Guatemala, Marleni Ramirez, Bioversity International, Karen Williams, USDA/ARS/NGRL, David Williams, Bioversity International

The Atlas of Guatemalan Crop Wild Relatives (Atlas Guatemalteco de Parientes Silvestres de las Plantas Cultivadas) is a new tool for the conservation and sustainable use of wild plant species that are related to crop plants. Guatemala is one of the world’s most important centers of plant domestication, and has an abundance of wild plants closely related to crops, including corn, beans, peppers, squash, avocado, and sweet potato. Crop wild relatives are an important source of beneficial traits needed to improve the production and quality of crop plants.

The Atlas was the result of a collaborative effort of the USDA/ARS, the Office for the Americas of Bioversity International, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and the Agronomy Department of the University of San Carlos of Guatemala (FAUSAC). The Atlas is presented in a Google Earth® application with information on distribution, use, diversity, and conservation status for 105 species of wild Guatemalan plants that are related to 29 different crops. The maps in the Atlas draw upon a database of 2,600 records of scientific specimens conserved in numerous national and international institutions, primarily herbaria and seed banks. The Atlas is currently available in Spanish and will be translated into English soon.

On December 2, 2011, Karen Williams, botanist with the USDA/ARS National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, and one of the authors, participated in the launch of the Atlas in Guatemala. Other international and national institutions represented at the launch included Bioversity International, the US Embassy in Guatemala City, the National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP), the Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology (ICTA), and the University of San Carlos (USAC). The Atlas was welcomed as a significant contribution towards the conservation of Guatemala’s unique agricultural biodiversity for the benefit of current and future generations.

For more information, and to download the Atlas or the supporting database of records, go to:


Crop Wild Relatives of the US

NGRL scientists, especially GRIN Taxonomist Dr. John Wiersema, are collaborators in a project to develop a conservation strategy for crop wild relatives (CWR) occurring in the US, especially species that are potentially useful to US agriculture. Crop wild relatives have contributed valuable traits to crop breeding programs, especially for pest and disease resistance, and will likely be key resources utilized to meet the challenges of global food production in this century as agriculture adapts to challenges of resource limitations and climate change. The project builds upon an effort to compile a national inventory of the native and naturalized CWR in the US, spearheaded by Curator/Geneticist Dr. Stephanie Greene at the USDA/ARS genebank in Prosser WA, and is part of PhD dissertation research for Colin Khoury, currently at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia. Learn more about the CWR of the US project, and provide valuable feedback, at

Dedication of American University's Korean Garden

Staff from USDA-ARS (National Germplasm Resources Laboratory and US National Arboretum) and USDA-APHIS were invited to the dedication of a Korean Garden at American University in Washington DC on April 25, 2011. These USDA agencies facilitated this project with advice and agricultural inspection of plant materials donated by the Republic of Korea. The focal point of the garden is two 260 year-old statues, called Dol-Harugang, donated from Jeju Island that promote a sense of trust and community. A reception and luncheon followed the dedication and was hosted by Dr. Han Duk-soo, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States.

The attached photograph shows the USDA (ARS and APHIS) attendees. Dr. Eun-Ju Cheong, a Korean-American Horticulturist in the National Germplasm Resources Lab, is wearing a traditional Korean formal occasion dress.

Korean Garden Dedication Group Photo

International Partnership to Develop a Global Plant Genebank Information System

GRIN-Global logoThe Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Bioversity International are partnering with the Global Crop Diversity Trust to develop a powerful but easy-to-use, Internet-based information management system for the world's plant genebanks.  

The nucleus of the system will be ARS's existing Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), a database that already houses information about the more than 480,000 accessions (distinct varieties of plants) in ARS’s National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS). In addition to serving as the information backbone of the NPGS, GRIN has been adopted by Canada’s national genebank system as their information management system. ARS has a long-term commitment to maintaining and enhancing GRIN, which it began developing more than 20 years ago.

As more genetic and agricultural data are generated about the wide range of plants preserved in genebanks around the world, the huge amount of information is increasingly difficult to manage and make accessible. This is especially the case for smaller genebanks in the developing world that may lack the capacity and resources to develop their own information management systems.

Now, thanks to the partnership between the Global Crop Diversity Trust, ARS and Bioversity, software upgrades will enable the GRIN system to be used by genebanks of all sizes, making more information about more plants available to researchers. The new system will help genebanks conserve and use precious genetic resources more effectively, and also help researchers, farmers and producers make the best possible use of information.

Preserving Genetic Variety of Valuable Specialty Crops

Protecting, preserving, providing material is the goal of the National Germplasm Resources Laboratory (NGRL) and the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS). An article on Preserving Genetic Variety of Valuable Crops provides some explanation of parts of the NGRL and the NPGS.

Ohio Processing tomato plant in Geneva, NY 


ARS News Articles

An Interactive Atlas to Preserve Agricultural Biodiversity
Mar 01, 2013
Last Modified: 2/26/2015