1 - USDA ARS National RHIZOBIUM Database
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Although usually unrecognized, microorganisms are highly important genetic resources. These resources have extensive potential. Culture collections of microorganisms (genetic resource centers) are indispensable for the preservation and maintenance of valuable strains and mutants. A genetic resource center is an essential investment to guard against loss the massive investments made in long-term basic and applied microbiological research. The role of microbial genetic resource centers is essential because it is extremely difficult to reisolate from nature an exact replica of a particularly useful strain in the event of loss. Such a loss in most cases is final because retrieval from nature of a replica may only be possible at prohibitive cost. Besides an investment against loss of important resources, microbial genetic resource centers very often also are the origin of important research programs, supplying information and basic data in addition to the genetic resources.
After the United Nations Conference on Human Environment, held in Stockholm in 1972, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Scientific Community launched a world-wide program for preserving microbial gene pools and making them accessible to developing countries. In 1974, the concept of the Microbiological Resource Center (MIRCEN) was formulated. In 1975, an action plan was developed to establish a world-wide network of MIRCENs with the following objectives:
One of the avenues pursued to reach these goals is the funding of short-term fellowships for training at one of the MIRCENs. Currently, the MIRCEN at Beltsville hosts trainees with UNESCO support as visiting scientists in the laboratory. Visitors receive hands on training in the microbiology of Rhizobium, usually by doing short-term research projects using approaches of molecular biology. However, training in more applied methods with relevance to the management of biological nitrogen fixation for efficient crop production are also available.
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