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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing Research

2009 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. Replacing 5348-21000-020-00D (3/08) renumbered from 5348-21000-021-00D (5/08). This new number will be replacing 5348-21000-025-00D (5/29/08).

3. Progress Report
This project is under National Program 301, Plant Genetic Resources, Genomics, and Genetics Improvement. Genetic resources are critical to ensure continued progress in genetic improvement of crop plants through breeding and plant genomics research. During 2009, WRPIS scientists successfully acquired 1,136 new accessions of various species for the Pullman gene bank. As of August 2, 2009, total holdings were 80,860 accessions belonging to 3,642 species (3,970 taxa) in 797 genera. In the last 12 months, a record number of 28,592 seed packets (17,740 accessions) were distributed (983 seed orders) to 730 stakeholders and scientists. Sixty-one percent (17,433) of the seed packets were sent to cooperators in the United States and 39% (11,159) were sent to foreign countries. These distribution figures demonstrate a significant need for WRPIS germplasm by a global community of researchers. The evaluation and characterization of WRPIS germplasm was a priority in FY 2009 with significant progress made. For example, WRPIS curators uploaded 30,194 observation records for 161 descriptors of 21 priority crops to the Genetic Resources Information Network (GRIN) database. Ninety-eight percent of this data was generated by WRPIS personnel with the remaining two percent contributed by cooperators. Additionally, 1,136 accessions from a broad range of plant species were grown in field nurseries for seed regeneration. Finally the molecular marker program assessed genetic diversity and relationships among 29 Brachypodium accessions, which is important baseline data for the functional genomics research community. In FY 2009 the WRPIS research agronomist demonstrated that winter type safflower has higher yield potential than spring types. The Agronomy program continued research involving native perennial grasses for revegetation on public lands in the Blue Mountains of Oregon and Washington and the Great Basin. Plant traits important for adaptation are linked to environmental variables to guide revegetation. Plant pathology research documented the presence of viruses in the WRPIS garlic collection and identified resistance to a bulb rot disease of garlic. Our entomologist identified a chickpea germplasm with a high level of resistance to pod borer and transferred the germplasm to breeders for new chickpea cultivar development in the U.S. and India. Incorporating the genes conferring insect resistance into one or more cultivars would reduce the amount of toxic insecticides used in chickpea production. The Research Geneticist cooperated with the WRPIS cool season food legume curator and a professor at Washington State University to identify several faba bean accessions with high levels of winter survival. These accessions survived a harsh winter and have potential for development as an alternative winter cover crop for wheat production areas in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

4. Accomplishments
1. Winter Safflower yield advantage. Safflower is normally a spring sown crop, but in many areas, fall sown safflower would provide important management alternatives and higher yield potential. Recent releases of winter safflower germplasm are being tested at several dryland locations. ARS scientists in Pullman, WA observed yield advantages of fall sowing winter type safflower being 66%, 48% and 83% over the spring sowing safflower in Pendleton OR, Pullman, WA and Central Ferry, WA, respectively. Most of the yield increase came from the development of additional seeds/head in fall sown winter types. This research will result in more acreage of fall sown safflower with high productivity and high profitability for farmers.

2. New powdery mildew pathogens infecting legume. Identification and documentation of pathogens are important for the development of disease management strategies. ARS scientists at Pullman, WA in collaboration with University and other research units, demonstrated that powdery mildew pathogens infecting legumes in the Palouse region belong to at least three species, not just one species as formerly assumed. This finding has strong implications for breeding for resistance to powdery mildew disease, since resistant genes to each of the three pathogen species may be required to achieve high levels of resistance. These results thus aid in development of legumes with high resistance to powdery mildew.

3. Biological control of Ascochyta blight of chickpea. Ascochyta blight is a devastating disease of chickpea crops. The common practice of controlling this disease with fungicide applications can be very expensive. In collaboration with researchers at Washington State University and the ARS scientists in Pullman, WA showed that biological control of Ascochyta blight of chickpea can be achieved with the application of a common, soil- and leaf-inhabiting fungus to post-harvest debris from the previous season. This research will provide an inexpensive and safe alternative for controlling Ascochyta blight of chickpea.

4. Mountain Brome adaptation zone map. Mountain Brome is a fast growing native perennial grass with high potential for revegetation on forest lands at elevations from about 750 to 2000 m. ARS researchers at the Western Regional Plant Introduction Station at Pullman, Washington made seed and data collections at 145 locations across the Blue Mountains. Regression models were used to link plant traits with environmental variables at individual collection site and a few adaptation zone maps have been developed. These maps will be useful as a management tool for guiding efficient transfer of germplasm sources for revegetation of Mountain Brome in the Blue Mountains.

5. Chickpea germplasm with high levels of resistance to pod borer. Insect pests are major biotic constraints to chickpea production with toxic insecticides used to control damaging infestations. Incorporating insect resistance genes into cultivars will reduce applications of toxic insecticides, resulting in an environmentally safer pest management option. ARS scientists in Pullman, WA identified chickpea germplasm with high levels of resistance to pod borer, one of the most serious pests of chickpea. These scientists transferred the resistant germplasm to chickpea breeders in the U.S. and India for new cultivar development. Incorporating high levels of resistance to pod borer from this germplasm into chickpea cultivars could potentially save on the need for toxic insecticides in production.

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

Review Publications
Johnson, D.A., Pimentel, G., Dugan, F.M. 2008. Cladosporium herbarum causes a leaf spot on Caltha leptosepala (marshmarigold) in western North America. Online Plant Health Progress doi:10.1094/PHP-2008-1121-01-RS.

Clement, S.L., Smith, L.J., Prena, J., Kleene, M.D., Johnson, R.C. 2009. Non-Target Plant Use by a Weed Biocontrol Agent in Idaho: Host Expansion or Opportunistic Behavior? Biocontrol Science and Technology 19:455-461.

Nieves-Rivera, A.M., Santos-Flores, C.J., Dugan, F.M., Miller, T.E. 2009. Guanophilic fungi in three caves of southwestern Puerto Rico. International Journal of Speleology 38: 61-71.

Smykal, P., Coyne, C.J., Ford, R., Redden, R., Hybl, M., Flavell, A.J., Warkentin, T., Burstin, J., Duc, G., Ambrose, M., Ellis, T., 2009. EFFORT TOWARDS A WORLD PEA (Pisum sativum L.) GERMPLASM CORE COLLECTION: The case for common markers and data compatibility. Pisum Genetics 40:11-14.

Last Modified: 2/23/2016
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