The U.S. National Plant Germplasm System is a cooperative effort to collect, conserve, document, share, and utilize plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. There are 20 genebanks in the U.S. that carry out this mission. Most are co-located with a land-grant university campus or facility to ensure close collaboration among ARS and university scientists. Visit the NPGS homepage for more information. NGRL provides a central support role for the NPGS in numerous ways, including developing and operating the GRIN database that documents our collections, coordinating the efforts of 42 Crop Germplasm Committees that support the system, and providing authoritative expertise on plant taxonomy (GRIN-Taxonomy) for the collections.
Most of the effort in NGRL is to support the NPGS, but we also assist the other valuable scientific and genetic resource collections of USDA-ARS with data management and sharing:
The National Animal Germplasm Program consists of a collection of animal germplasm located at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Ft. Collins, CO. Semen, blood, and embryo samples are stored under liquid nitrogen for species that are important to food and agriculture including beef and dairy cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, goats, and freshwater and marine fishes.
The National Microbial Germplasm Program consists of several collections of microbes important to food and agriculture: The National Fungus Collection located in Beltsville, MD consists of more than 1 million fungal specimens of over 65,000 taxa. Also located in Beltsville, MD is the National Rhizobium Collection of nitrogen-fixing bacteria. The ARS Culture Collection in Peoria, IL is one of the largest public collections of actinomycetes, bacteria, molds and yeasts in the world with more than 95,000 strains. The ARS Entemopathogenic Fungi collection in Ithaca, NY consists of more than 9,000 freeze-dried samples of fungi that infect insects, other arthropods, and nematodes. These are useful for a wide range of research, including biological control studies.
The National Invertebrate Genetic Resources Program is based in Beltsville, MD includes the Biological Control Documentation Center that maintains a wide array of data related to biological control research.
Both the Plant Disease Research Unit and the Plant Exchange Office of NGRL collaborate extensively with USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) programs, located in Beltsville and Riverdale, MD.
Additional partnerships exist with scientists at many ARS research locations, other federal laboratories, universities, and non-governmental organizations to collaborate on domestic plant exploration, exchange, quarantine, and conservation programs.Partners Outside the United States
NPRL partnerships are not limited to the USA. In fact, almost all of our projects have a truly global reach and impact. For example, the Plant Exchange Office facilitates partnerships with many non-US collaborators necessary to conduct foreign plant explorations all around the world. Such joint explorations strengthen the ties between U.S. and foreign scientists and promote global availability of plant germplasm for research and education.
The 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 houses information about the more than 550,000 accessions (distinct varieties of plants) in the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS). In addition to serving as the information backbone of the NPGS, GRIN has been adopted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada as their information management system for plant genetic resources. ARS has a long-term commitment to maintaining and enhancing GRIN, which it began developing almost 30 years ago.
As more genetic and agricultural data are generated about the wide range of plants conserved 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.
Thanks to the partnership among 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. See the website dedicated to the GRIN-Global project for more information.