Organic Growers Join With ARS to Retain Crop
By Kathryn Barry
October 20, 1999
More than 200 organic seed farmers are growing 800 breeding lines of
traditional crop plants provided by the National Plant Germplasm System. The
system is maintained by the Agricultural
Research Service, USDA's chief
The growers' effort, known as the Farmer
Cooperative Genome Project, hopes to provide farmers and gardeners with a
wider selection of crop varieties than they can obtain commercially.
For example, the growers are now working with 100 garlic lines provided by
ARS' Western Regional
Plant Introduction Station in Pullman, Wash. Rich Hannan, horticulturist at
the Pullman facility, serves as an informal liaison between ARS and the grower
group. J.J. Haapala, an organic seed
grower in Oregon, coordinates the project.
ARS will also benefit, as growers follow strict protocols and document crop
characteristics for use by the germplasm system. The farmers also return some
of the seed to ARS for storage and future use by researchers.
ARS maintains a network of 26 repositories nationwide that preserve and
regenerate germplasm--seed and other reproductive tissues--of crops and their
wild relatives. The system houses more than 400,000 accessions comprising more
than 10,000 species. An accession is a genetically distinct group of plants
such as a crop variety or wild subspecies.
The Farmer Cooperative Genome Project, based in Junction City, Ore., started
in 1998 with a USDA Fund for Rural
America grant. More details on the project appear in the October issue of
ARS' Agricultural Research
magazine and on the web at:
Scientific contact: Rich Hannan,
ARS Western Regional
Plant Introduction Station, Pullman, Wash., phone (509) 335-1502, fax (509)