First Flower Genebank Celebrates 2nd Birthday
By Don Comis
July 23, 2003
The first genebank solely for flowers
is celebrating its 2nd birthday this month. In just two short years, the new
Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center is taking its place among the 25 functional
genebanks of the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS).
David Tay is director of the new ornamental plants center, and Susan Stieve
is the curator. The center's role is to preserve the entire gene pool of
desired species and their wild relatives. Until now, the NPGS had only about
3,000 flowering plant types in its collection--despite the fact that, globally,
floriculture is about a $50 billion-a-year business.
The newest germplasm center is the result of a cooperative effort between
the Agricultural Research Service, the
Ohio State government and the American floriculture industry. It is housed at
The Ohio State University in
The center already has more than 1,500 accessions of ornamental plants from
all over the world safely preserved in the collection's seed cooler. The center
is networking with scientists locally and in other countries to explore,
collect and conserve more unique germplasm.
Last year the center researchers successfully regrew 40 accessions from the
originally collected seed stocks. The center is in the process of building a
tissue culture laboratory for clonally propagated plants. This month, Tay and
Stieve and their small crew began the center's first shipment of seed, which is
another important step in its development. Requested germplasm will be
distributed to researchers and breeders around the world.
This year the center hosted the 2003 National Floriculture Forum of the
American Society for Horticultural Science.
In 2005, it will host an International Society
for Horticultural Science symposium on flower germplasm conservation and
The preservation of flower germplasm has become even more important today as
concentrated breeding narrows the gene pool of many popular flowers by focusing
The Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center's web site is:
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.