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Vegetable Bounty Is Well Protected
June 5, 2003
Fruit and vegetable growers who have to
contend with drought, floods, viruses and other pest problems have a genetic
ally in an Agricultural Research Service
laboratory in Griffin, Ga.
There, the ARS Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit (PGRCU) serves
as an invaluable resource for farmers facing tough growing conditions. PGRCU,
part of the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS), maintains a varied
collection of plant genetic resources, including legumes, sweetpotatoes,
peppers, squash, annual clover, eggplant and sorghum, among others. Led by
research leader Gary Pederson, the unit holds more than 82,000 plant samples
In the last three years, PGRCU has sent more than 110,000 plant germplasm
samples to domestic and foreign growers and to researchers. By maintaining a
repository of plant germplasm, it's possible for varieties used in the past in
similar environmental conditions to be used now or in the future, as conditions
Growing conditions vary every year. Each plant variety thrives in specific,
preferred conditions. Thanks to the efforts of a consortium of labs that make
up the NPGS, the varieties are available--and will remain so--to researchers,
educators and producers.
The researchers who are germplasm curators have the very important task of
safeguarding samples of all agriculturally important crops. Through a national
network, samples of crop plants are maintained as a means of safeguarding
agriculture's productive capacity as well as for filling worldwide requests.
However, keeping the seeds and plant samples alive takes work.
For example, samples stored as seed are dried, cleaned and packaged before
being put in cold or freezer storage. Some seeds, such as clover and sorghum,
can last for 30 or 40 years in freezer storage. Each accession is entered into
the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) database, operated by the GRIN
Database Management Unit, in Beltsville, Md.
More information on this research is in the
June 2003 issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.