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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » National Germplasm Resources Laboratory » Research » Research Project #424583

Research Project: Plant Genetic Resource Acquisition and Conservation Strategies, International Germplasm ... for the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System

Location: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory

2016 Annual Report


1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
1) Apply the expert knowledge of project staff, Crop Germplasm Committees (CGCs), National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) curators, scientific literature, and GIS and other analyses of national and international databases to identify and prioritize strategic gaps in NPGS crop collections, and facilitate the acquisition of the genetic resources needed to fill those gaps. 1a) Conduct systematic and ecogeographical analyses to identify key gaps in NPGS collections, prioritize acquisitions needed to fill those gaps, and identify opportunities for acquisition. 1b) Develop linkages between NPGS genebanks and federal and state landholding agencies to preserve in in situ reserves native taxa related to the crop species. 2) Maintain and augment GRIN-Taxonomy for Plants, an online database for validated, standard botanical and cultivated scientific plant names, taxonomic classifications, and associated data. Expand the nomenclatural, classificatory, and ecogeographical information available for crop wild relatives. 2a) Provide accurate scientific plant names in GRIN/GRIN-Global, incorporating new data on classification, synonymy, geographical distributions, economic impacts, and common names that reflect current literature. 2b) Promote global usage of GRIN taxonomic data among genetic resource managers and other agricultural workers. 2c) Expand GRIN taxonomic data on wild relatives of crops. 3) Foster plant genetic resource conservation and sustainable use by facilitating the international export of NPGS germplasm, and by establishing innovative international partnerships to enhance plant genetic resource conservation capacities. Establish and maintain partnerships in developing countries that provide access to their plant genetic resources, both ex situ and in situ, by NPGS-funded plant explorers. These partnerships are to enhance donor nations’ capacity to conserve, document, and use genetic resources. 3a) Establish and maintain partnerships in developing countries which provide access to their plant genetic resources, both ex situ and in situ, by NPGS-funded plant explorers. These partnerships are to enhance donor nations' capacity to conserve, document, and use genetic resources. 3b) In collaboration with the USDA-APHIS and DHS/Customers and Border Patrol/Airport Inspection Service, facilitate the import of plant genetic resources and accompanying documentation from donor countries, and the export of NPGS germplasm to other countries, as part of international plant exhanges. 4) Serve as coordinator and secretariat for the 42 Crop Germplasm Committees who collectively provide technical input for NPGS plant genetic resource management plans and priorities, and catalyze a greater awareness of current genetic resource management efforts for these crops.


1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Crops will be reviewed for germplasm gaps in the general order of economic value. On a crop-by-crop basis all taxa related to the crop under study and their relative importance as potential donors of genes for crop improvement will be identified. Gaps will then be identified and prioritized. This list will then be reviewed to determine if some or all of them can be acquired through exchange or if collection from in situ populations is needed. Once geographic areas are identified from which collections are needed, countries in which access to genetic resources is likely will be determined. The assessment will be sent to the NPGS crop curators and the appropriate CGCs for validation and modification. To maintain GRIN-Taxonomy for Plants the latest taxonomic literature will be monitored through routine searches to detect any changes to existing taxonomic classification or nomenclature for possible adoption in GRIN/GRIN-Global. All data will be documented by references cited in GRIN. Employing the definitions of genetic-relative classes, CWR classification will be developed for each crop based on thorough review of all pertinent taxonomic and phylogenetic literature, as well as similar review of the plant-genetic, plant-breeding, or other crop-science literature. Working directly with representatives of the federal and state land-managing agencies, this project will develop formal non-funded, interagency agreements to establish in situ reserves for target populations of crop wild relatives on land protected by the agencies. Non-monetary benefits will be negotiated and provided to countries that give prior informed consent for access to their plant genetic resources. The nature of such small-scale projects will be highly variable, but possibilities include funding of an evaluation and regeneration project in the host country for the collected germplasm, local or international training in genebank related activities, and the purchase of laboratory, field, or data processing equipment for the genebank or host institution. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued permits for non-regulated nursery stock, small seed lots without a phytosanitary certificate, and herbarium specimens will be maintained to facilitate the import of germplasm for the NPGS. Instruction sheets on Import/Export procedures and proper shipping of germplasm to the NPGS will also be regularly updated and made available to NPGS personnel. Regular communications with Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection and APHIS on importing plants will also be maintained. Export of NPGS germplasm to researchers and educators worldwide will be supported by facilitating the agriculture inspections and issuance of phytosanitary certificates by APHIS, and shipping the germplasm to the final destination. This project will also coordinate and participate in the annual meetings of the CGC Chairs, maintain documentation of the activities of CGCs (minutes, membership rosters, crop vulnerability reports, etc.), and serve as a liaison between CGCs and ARS leadership to highlight issues and concerns related to plant genetic resources.


3. Progress Report:
Fourteen plant explorations/exchanges were coordinated in fiscal year 2016 by the National Germplasm Resources Laboratory (NGRL). In cooperation with host country institutions, explorations took place in Georgia, Spain (2), and Vietnam. Ten explorations and exchanges also took place in the United States. Germplasm samples collected are genetic resources of apple, ash, bean, carrot, hardy kiwifruit, onion, potato, small fruits, sunflower, and herbaceous and woody ornamentals. These accessions are new sources of genetic diversity that will soon be available from the National Plant Germplasm System to scientists worldwide for use in crop breeding and other research. Numerous adjustments were made to the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) taxonomy data, including the addition of more than 2,100 distribution, 2,650 literature, 50 common name, and 280 economic use records. Modifications to nearly 38,000 existing records have also been made, many of these to allow for the migration of these data to the GRIN-Global platform. Considerable time was devoted to transitioning to GRIN-Global, troubleshooting the development of the GRIN-Global taxonomy wizard used for database maintenance, and reporting on problems of the taxonomy web interface. Several proposals to amend the 2012 International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi and plants, to be revised following the 2017 International Botanical Congress, have been prepared and published to solve problems in the nomenclature of economic plants. Over 176 major and minor crops in 90 genera now have a classification of their crop wild relatives compiled and publicly available on GRIN-Global. Between October 1 2015-June 9 2016, the Plant Exchange Office of NGRL assisted in the distribution of 27,266 accessions to researchers in 57 countries, and in the importation of shipments of germplasm from several foreign countries for U.S. researchers and the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System. Collaboration between ARS and the U.S. Forest Service to select and establish in situ reserves for cranberry crop wild relatives (Vaccinium macrocarpon and V. oxycoccos) on U.S. national forests continued with tissue and germplasm sampling of 11 populations on four national forests. Tissue samples are currently being analyzed for identification of genetically unique and/or diverse populations. Germplasm has been sent for conservation at the USDA National Clonal Repository in Corvallis, Oregon. Plant introductions collected over 100 years ago by USDA in other countries, and believed to be lost, were identified and documented at the former USDA Plant Introduction Garden (now under management by the U.S. Forest Service) in Chico, California. Information on these plants is currently being prepared for review by crop curators to plan for conserving this plant material with the National Plant Germplasm System.


4. Accomplishments
1. Plant explorations were conducted to obtain documented genetic resources for the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System. Fourteen plant explorations/exchanges were coordinated in fiscal year 2016 by the National Germplasm Resources Laboratory. In cooperation with host country institutions, explorations took place in Georgia, Spain (2), and Vietnam. Ten explorations and exchanges also took place in the United States. Germplasm samples collected are genetic resources of apple, ash, bean, carrot, hardy kiwifruit, onion, potato, small fruits, sunflower, and herbaceous and woody ornamentals. These accessions are new sources of genetic diversity that will soon be available from the National Plant Germplasm System to scientists worldwide for use in crop breeding and other research.

2. GRIN Taxonomy: Internationally recognized resource for plant taxonomy of agricultural plants. Approximately 1,000 taxon records were updated in the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) taxonomy during fiscal year 2016. Around 700 of these were new additions to GRIN. Some of these included accommodating additional accessions from the Seeds of Success project of the Bureau of Land Management and the ARS Western Regional Plant Introduction Station. Correct classification and naming of germplasm accessions is critical for optimally curating and utilizing them. Many genebanks, research organizations and individuals worldwide now routinely rely on the information in GRIN Taxonomy, and records have been added to GRIN Taxonomy during fiscal year 2016 to accommodate the needs of the National Agricultural Library and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). Additionally, data on wild relatives for 176 major and minor crops have been compiled and can be made publicly available in GRIN Taxonomy. These data identify and classify nearly 11,400 primary, secondary, tertiary, and graft-stock genetic relatives for these crops, and are searchable by various criteria.


5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations:
None.


Review Publications
Khoury, C.K., Achicanoy, H.A., Bjorman, A.D., Navarro-Racines, C., Guarino, L., Flores-Palacios, X., Engels, J.M.M., Wiersema, J.H., Dempewolf, H., Sotelo, S., Ramirez-Villegas, J., Castaneda-Alvarez, N., Fowler, C., Jarvis, A., Rieseberg, L.H., Struik, P.C. 2016. Origins of food crops connect countries worldwide. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 283:20160792. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2016.0792.
Wiersema, J.H., McNeill, J., Turland, N.J., Orli, S.S., Wagner, W.L. 2015. The foundation of the Melbourne Code Appendices: Announcing a new paradigm for tracking nomenclatural decisions. Taxon 64: 1021-1027.