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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing Research

2010 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
Objective 1: Strategically expand the genetic diversity in genebank collections and improve associated information for priority cool season food and forage legume, turf and forage grass, native rangeland, oilseed, vegetable, medicinal, ornamental, and other specialty and industrial crop genetic resources. Objective 2: Conserve and regenerate priority cool season food and forage legume, turf and forage grass, native rangeland, oilseed, vegetable, medicinal, ornamental, and other specialty and industrial crop genetic resources efficiently and effectively, and distribute samples and associated information worldwide. Objective 3: Strategically characterize (“genotype”) and evaluate (“phenotype”) crop core subsets and other priority germplasm for molecular markers, morphological descriptors, and key agronomic or horticultural traits, such as general adaptation, phenology, and growth potential. Objective 4: Develop genetically-enhanced populations of priority crops to broaden the genetic base of breeding genepools. Objective 5: Conserve, regenerate, and distribute germplasm of specialty crops, current or potential bioenergy crops (e.g., Brachypodium, other cool-season grasses), and new stocks generated by genome sequencing and other genomic resarch with Brachypodium, Medicago truncatula, peas, and lettuce.

1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Plan and conduct both traditional as well as new and innovative activities to acquire, store, regenerate, evaluate/characterize, and distribute plant germplasm assigned to this project. Also, develop new conservation and preservation protocols that enable long-term genetic security. Prepare and publish appropriate articles, peer reviewed manuscripts and Internet (Germplasm Resources Information Network) data sets for the germplasm user community. Conduct research programs on molecular characterization of selected collections; the impact/use of insects as pests, pollinators and/or biological control agents; the interaction of fungi as plant disease organisms or plant mycosymbionts; and the physiological aspects of seed production relative to seed preservation and long-term storage.

3. Progress Report
This project is under National Program 301, Plant Genetic Resources, Genomics, and Genetics Improvement. Plant genetic resources are critical to ensure continued progress in genetic improvement of crop productivity through breeding. As of August 2010, total holdings at this gene bank were 85,880 accessions belonging to 3,714 species (4,093 taxa) in 822 genera. We continued to supply the global plant research community with high quality seed samples for both applied and basic research. Last year, we shipped out a total of 36,704 seed packets to 887 requesters in 42 countries. We regenerated 952 accessions from a broad range of plant species and shipped to the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NCGRP), Fort Collins, Colorado and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Longyearbyen, Svalbard for secure backup. Scientists and curators successfully acquired useful germplasm through their established collaborations with scientists around the world, particularly those in the CGIAR centers like International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India and International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Columbia and through general donations from the public researchers in the USA. The approximately 3,000 new arrivals included 972 common bean accessions from CIAT, 710 grasses and miscellaneous species from the collection trips to Canada (Alaska Plant Materials Center), 587 native plant accessions from the Seeds of Success (SOS) project, 242 lettuce (ARS-Salinas), and 212 Brachypodium distachyon inbred lines (ARS-St. Paul, MN) and (ARS-Albany, CA). Evaluation and characterization of priority crop germplasm continued and a significant progress was made in the past year. Our curators uploaded a total of 26,988 observation data records into the GRIN database. These data are collected from 6,182 accessions on 125 descriptors of 21 crops. Ninety-two percent of the data were collected by ARS personnel at Pullman station and the other eight percent were contributed by our collaborators. In FY 2010, the Research Agronomist identified Kentucky bluegrass germplasm selections with high seed yield and improved turf quality under non-burn residue management for grass seed production in the Pacific Northwest. The Research Plant Pathologist Screened Allium accessions for resistance to Penicillium decay and successfully identified complete resistance to Penicillium allii in accessions of three species of subgenus Melanocrommyum, and one species in subgenus Allium. The Research Entomologist discovered a ‘novel strain’ of fungal endophytes in the Pullman grass collection. This endophyte produces only peramine, an alkaloid that is not toxic to mammals but widely considered to have broad anti-insect activity. The Research Geneticist assessed the genetic diversity and relationship among 151 accessions of faba bean (Vicia faba) maintained in Pullman using TRAP markers.

4. Accomplishments
1. Expanding the model grass germplasm collection. There has been a growing interest in the germplasm collection of purple false brome, Brachypodium distachyon maintained in Pullman because it is a new model plant for grass functional genomics research. Its whole genome DNA sequence was published early this year. ARS Researchers from Pullman, WA, expanded our Brachypodium collection by soliciting donation of over 200 inbred lines including the one used for whole genome sequencing from two ARS research scientists located in Minnesota and California. These newly added materials will be freely distributed to requesters in the global Brachypodium research community and the research results will have great application to improve biofuel (switchgrass) and grain food (wheat and barley) crops.

2. Garlic germplasm accessions have significantly greater resistance to Penicillium decay. Penicillium allii appears to be the primary causal agent of garlic decay in the field and at higher storage temperatures in the USA. Resistance to Penicillium decay of onion, garlic and relatives, hitherto not reported, has been demonstrated by ARS Researchers at Pullman in several accessions of wild or ornamental onion species under conditions of artificial inoculation with Penicillium allii. In addition, one accession of garlic and two accessions of elephant garlic showed significantly greater resistance than a characteristically susceptible cultivar of table garlic. The identified resistance sources will be useful for garlic improvement.

3. Genotyping a subset of the U.S. faba bean germplasm collection. Faba bean ranks sixth among the world’s legume food crops. The 750 accessions of the USDA faba bean germplasm collected around the world are maintained in Pullman. ARS Researchers at Pullman applied target region amplification polymorphism (TRAP) marker technique to fingerprinting 155 accessions for genetic diversity assessment. Our study revealed that there is a relatively high level of genetic diversity in this subset and that there seems a substantial association between molecular diversity and geographic origins of the accessions. These results are useful to faba bean breeders and will promote the utilization of these publically available germplasm to develop cultivars with improved productivity.

4. Endophyte-infected fescue and timothy accessions are resistant to cereal leaf beetle. Endophyte-infected fescue and timothy accessions are resistant to cereal leaf beetle. Private and public sector scientists worldwide acquire temperate grass accessions for fungal endophytes to develop new forage grass cultivars with drought tolerance and insect resistance. ARS research entomologists at Pullman, WA identified new endophyte-infected fescue and timothy accessions with resistance to the cereal leaf beetle, an important grass pest. This knowledge will be useful to researchers developing an endophyte based system to protect cereal crops from important insect pests like the cereal leaf beetle.

5. Environmental and health concerns are limiting grass field burning needed to stimulate seed production of Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis). Environmental and health concerns are limiting grass field burning needed to stimulate seed production of Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis). Collaborating with a professor of Washington State University, ARS Research Agronomist at Pullman, WA conducted an evaluation and selection process over several years and identified four germplasm sources combining good to excellent turf quality with high seed production for no-burn residue management. Plots have been established to increase seed quantities needed for future testing in grower fields. The identified germplasm will be useful to the turf industry.

5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
Garlic is one of the economically important specialty crops and its production is often a small scale operation. The above research on garlic pathogens is directly pertinent to small farms.

Review Publications
Dugan, F.M. 2009. Dregs of our forgotten ancestors: fermentative microorganisms in the prehistory of Europe, the steppes and Indo-Iranian Asia, and their contemporary use in traditional and probiotic beverages. Fungi. 2(4):16-39.

Newcombe, G., Gaylord, R., Yenish, J.P., Mastrogiuseppe, J., Dugan, F.M. 2009. New Records for Pathogenic Fungi on Weedy or Non-Indigenous Plants. North American Fungi. 4(8):1-12 doi: 10.2509/naf2009.004.008

Clement, S.L., Bradley, V.L., Elberson, L.R., Bragg, D.E., Phillips, T.D. 2009. Cereal Leaf Beetle Colonizes Grass Germplasm Nurseries and Impacts Seed Production Activities. Online. Forage and Grazinglands. doi:10.1094/FG-2009-1214-01-RS.

Clement, S.L. 2009. Variable effects of fungal endophyte-infected grasses on the performance of pestiferous aphids. Redia Journal of Zoology. 92:205-209.

Last Modified: 06/23/2017
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