Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Plant Introduction Research

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The long-term objectives of this project are to acquire, conserve, evaluate, characterize, document and distribute high-quality plant genetic resource (PGR) collections and associated information for research applications to support sustainable agricultural productivity. Objective 1: Strategically expand the genetic diversity in genebank collections and improve associated information for priority maize, oilseed, vegetable, pseudocereal, forage, woody ornamental, medicinal, bioenergy, and other specialty and industrial crop genetic resources. Objective 2: Conserve and regenerate priority maize, oilseed, vegetable, pseudocereal, forage, woody ornamental, medicinal, bioenergy, and other specialty and industrial crop genetic resources efficiently and effectively, and distribute pathogen-tested samples and associated information worldwide. Objective 3: Strategically characterize (“genotype”) and evaluate (“phenotype”) priority Zea (maize and wild relatives), Daucus, Helianthus, Coriandrum, Echinacea, Hypericum, and Melilotus genetic resources for molecular markers, morphological descriptors, taxonomic verification, and key agronomic or horticultural traits, such as maize starch content for bioenergy production. Objective 4: Develop superior information management software for optimally supporting the needs of genetic resource curators, researchers, breeders, and other users.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
To accomplish these objectives, USDA-ARS and ISU staff of the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station (NCRPIS) work collaboratively with the National Germplasm Research Laboratory (NGRL) to acquire and document germplasm in the Germplasm Resource Information Network (GRIN) database, the National Center for Genetic Resource Preservation (NCGRP), and a wide array of researchers and genebank personnel in the U.S. and abroad. Expected outcomes from research and service activities include available, high-quality plant germplasm for distribution; documentation and transfer of evaluation and characterization information that enables targeting of PGR to meet research objectives; improved information management tools to support curatorial, research and other germplasm user-community needs.

3. Progress Report:
This is the fifth progress report of Project 3625-21000-053-00D, initiated 04/14/2008. Many activities are seasonal and overlap fiscal years. Unseasonably warm March weather encouraged early planting, but brought a record influx of leaf hoppers which vectored Aster Yellows disease, and various mycoplasma and viral diseases. This negatively impacted vegetable and Brassica increases, and the Daucus taxonomy characterization plantings. Record hot, dry weather necessitated use of all irrigation resources available; sunflower plantings were irrigated for the first time in history. Pollination quality will be poor and seed set affected. A severe storm damaged several sunflower cages and caused some root lodging. For this reporting period, 717 regeneration attempts were made for accessions of maize, vegetables, ornamentals and other crops; 963 were harvested (2011 plantings); about 3% of collection holdings were tested for viability; 792 accessions were backed up at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Ft. Collins, CO and 354 at Svalbard, Norway. Over 40,200 crop data descriptors were loaded to the GRIN (Germplasm Resources Information Network) system pertaining to 7,266 accessions, and 1,519 images captured. Cryogenic storage protocols for Fraxinus (ash) buds, developed and implemented by the NCGRP can now be used routinely, as for Salix. The ability to store buds for future use is critical if ash trees threatened by the Emerald Ash Borer cannot be maintained in the field. Web-based publication of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map was completed in collaboration with SCA collaborators at Oregon State University; peer-reviewed publications are now available. Evaluation data are being collected for 2012 increases and observation plantings. Wild Helianthus was evaluated for resistance to Sclerotinia rot – 250 accessions were tested in the greenhouse and 25 advanced to field trials at two locations. Collaborative Daucus characterization and taxonomic field was damaged. All available maize inbreds (about 2750) were evaluated phenotypically in 2010 in Ames, IA, Raleigh, NC, Columbia, MO, and Ithaca, NY, and again in Ames in 2011. Tissue samples were genetically characterized via SNP analysis by collaborators, association analyses completed, and publicly presented. Aronia accessions are being evaluated for yield and flavor components. Seed requests for calendar year 2011 set another record; 38,402 items of 18,634 unique accessions were distributed to 1180 requestors, 46% international and 54% domestic. Maize comprised 34% of all orders; the association panel of inbred lines and lines with recently expired plant variety protection certificates are popular. Vegetables and oilseeds each comprised about 20% of all distributions. Amaranth, setaria, quinoa, and woody ornamentals comprise remaining distributions. 2012 orders will surpass 2011's. Version 1.0 of GRIN-Global, developed to replace the GRIN system, was released internationally in December, 2011, and is being implemented by three major genebanks. The U.S. NPGS is conducting gap analysis activities prior to implementation.

4. Accomplishments
1. International release of V1.0 of the GRIN-Global System in Dec, 2011. GRIN-Global resulted from the leadership by our Unit's development staff in collaboration with the Database Management Unit in Beltsville, MD, the Global Crop Bioversity Trust, Bioversity International, and the testing efforts of international researchers who attended multiple training sessions held in the U.S. GRIN-Global provides the international plant genetic resource community with a database-neutral system to manage germplasm information and genebank activities that functions on networked or stand-alone PCs, with freely available source code, and no recurring licensing costs. Its unique design enables adaptation of the interface to the genebank's language of choice. This system will enable genebanks to better conserve, and thus secure plant genetic resources and associated information, and supports global agricultural research and develop efforts.

2. Release of the U.S. Plant Hardiness Zone Map, or PHZM. The PHZM has been updated for the first time since 1990, but with much greater accuracy and detail. Available at, it illustrates how climate change has dramatically impacted adaptation zones since 1990, and enables horticulturists and home owners to better target plant selections for the landscape and ornamental use. This information helps determine risk of loss due to temperature sensitivity associated with horticultural introductions.

3. Characterization of the U.S. inbred germplasm collection. The U.S. maize collection contains over 22,000 accessions, a huge amount of diversity. Good characterization and evaluation information are necessary to facilitate effective utilization of the intrinsic value that these accessions offer. Over 2500 maize inbred lines were phenotyped at four U.S. locations and genotyped by ARS collaborators in Ithaca, NY; these data will be entered in GRIN, following publication of data analyses in peer-reviewed journals, and utilized by researchers to target germplasm well-suited for their objectives. These efforts will contribute to more effective management of the collection, and to development of trait associations which enable resesarchers to better target them for crop improvement, thus benefiting society.

4. Germplasm acquisition. Acquisition of over 485 new accessions of plant germplasm offer expanded opportunities for utilization and investigation. New accessions include traditional crops, new crops such as camelina and pennycress (of interest for biofuel production), and Fraxinus (ash trees) germplasm that is rapidly being eradicated in the U.S. by the Emerald Ash Borer. Fraxinus acquisition efforts are collaborative with multiple federal and state agencies. Because access to plant genetic resources is limited, well-targeted acquisition strategies offer avenues to expand diversity for crop improvement and utilization to support agricultural success.

5. Resistance to white mold of sunflower. Losses due to Sclerotinia, also known as white mold, are a serious challenge for sunflower producers. Greenhouse disease-resistance evaluations progressed with screening of additional perennial species including Helianthus resinosus, H. salicifolius, H. tuberosus, H. eggertii and H. ciliaris. All the perennial species showed remarkable resistance. For H. salicifolius, 12 of 14 accessions had >90% survival and seven had 100% survival. Helianthus salicifolius was the first diploid perennial species tested, suggesting the potential for easier crossing compatibility with H. annuus. These findings can support development of Sclerotinia-resistant cultivars.

6. Camelina mapping population. Camelina is a relatively new crop, camelina is currently grown chiefly in the northwestern U.S. for its oil for biofuel (jet fuel), and its meal is valued for animal feed. Little was known about the diversity of our camelina collection for seed and oil quality traits. This information is necessary for effective collection use. A camelina mapping population developed in collaboration with an industry stakeholder was analyzed, and the highest and lowest oil-content lines were grown for a second year in Ames and with North Dakota State University collaborators to validate results and aid in identification of quantitative trait loci that may govern oil content and seed yield. These data will impact research and development efforts to improve varieties for biodiesel and feed use.

Review Publications
Trapp II, A., Dixon, P., Widrlechner, M.P., Kovach, D.A. 2012. Scheduling viability tests for seeds in long-term storage based on a Bayesian Multi-Level Model. Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics. 17(2):192-208. Available online at

Zhang, X., Rizshsky, L., Hauck, C., Qu, L., Widrlechner, M.P., Nikolau, B.J., Murphy, P.A., Birt, D.F. 2012. Bauer ketones 23 and 24 from Echinacea paradoxa var. paradoxa inhibit lipopolysaccharide-induced nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2 and cytokines in RAW 264.7 mouse macrophages. Phytochemistry. 74:146-158.

Qiang, Z., Zhong, Y., Hauck, C., Murphy, P., McCoy, J., Widrlechner, M.P., Reddy, M., Hendrich, S. 2011. Permeability of rosmarinic acid in Prunella vulgaris and ursolic acid in Salvia officinalis extracts across Caco-2 cell monolayers. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 137(3):1107-1112. Available:

Lebeda, A., Doležalová, I., Kitner, M., Novotná, A., Šmachová, P., Widrlechner, M.P. 2012. North American Continent – A new source of wild Lactuca spp. germplasm variability for future lettuce breeding. Acta Horticulturae. 918:475-482.

Ramasahayam, S., Baraka, H.N., Abdel Bar, F.M., Widrlechner, M.P., El Sayed, K.A., Meyer, S.A. 2011. Effects of chemically characterized fractions from aerial parts of Echinacea purpurea and E. angustifolia on Myelopoiesis in Rats. Planta Medica. 77:1883-1889. Available online at

Qu, L., Widrlechner, M.P. 2011. Reduction of seed dormancy in Echinacea pallida (Nutt.) Nutt. by in-dark seed selection and breeding. Industrial Crops and Products. 36(1):88-93.

Daly, C., Widrlechner, M.P., Halbleib, M.D., Smith, J.I. 2012. Development of a new USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for the United States. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. 51:242-264. Available:

Widrlechner, M.P., Daly, C., Keller, M., Kaplan, J.S. 2012. Horticultural applications of a newly revised USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. HortTechnology. 22(1):6-19.

Kapler, E.J., Thompson, J.R., Widrlechner, M.P. 2012. Assessing stakeholder perspectives on invasive plants to inform risk analysis. Journal of Invasive Plant Science and Management. 5(2):194-208.

Kapler, E.J., Widrlechner, M.P., Dixon, P.M., Thompson, J.R. 2012. Performance of five models to predict the naturalization of non-native woody plants in Iowa. Journal of Environmental Horticulture. 30:35-41.

Last Modified: 05/22/2017
Footer Content Back to Top of Page