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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

2018 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:
This is the final report for project 8042-21000-270-00D, which was a companion project with 8042-21000-272-00D in conducting plant explorations and exchanges. Over the five-year duration of this project, 60 plant explorations were completed in the U.S. and foreign countries. All foreign explorations were conducted in accordance with host country laws on access to genetic resources and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Crops for which germplasm was collected include bean, carrot, grasses, forage legumes, leafy vegetables, small and tree fruits, new crops, nuts, onion, potato, quinoa, sugar beet, sunflower, sweet potato, woody and herbaceous landscape plants. Germplasm was deposited in the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) and host country institutions. Several types of benefit sharing with host countries were implemented, including purchase of equipment, training of scientists, and upgrade of genebank facilities. The acquired accessions are new sources of genetic diversity that are, or soon will be, available for global crop improvement and other research. Numerous adjustments were made to GRIN-Taxonomy data, including the addition of more than 29,500 distribution, 29,250 literature, 710 common name, and 2,640 economic use records. Modifications to more than 113,800 existing records were made, many to improve the reporting of these data on the GRIN-Global platform, which was implemented in year three of the project. Historical Plant Introductions collected on foreign USDA plant explorations and brought to the U.S. before the establishment of the NPGS were identified and documented from two former USDA Plant Introduction Gardens. Surviving Plant Introductions at the former USDA Plant Introduction Garden (now under the management of the U.S. Forest Service) in Chico, California, were identified, documented, mapped, and labeled. These include oriental persimmons, apples, and woody landscape plants collected over 100 years ago by USDA plant explorers, but believed to have been lost in the U.S. The germplasm of more than 50 of these plants were collected and deposited with the appropriate NPGS repositories for permanent conservation. Additional historical Plant Introductions were identified at the High Plains Arboretum, a former USDA-ARS horticultural field station in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and plans are being made for their rescue. The Plant Exchange Office collaborated with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) on the development of complementary in situ and ex situ conservation programs for crop wild relatives. The Joint Strategic Framework on the Conservation and Use of Native Crop Wild Relatives in the United States was jointly published by ARS and USFS. Conservation of wild relatives of cranberry was used as a model project under the framework. A protocol for the selection and establishment of in situ reserves for cranberry wild relatives (Vaccinium macrocarpon and V. oxycoccos) on National Forests was developed and implemented. Twenty-one populations of V. macrocarpon and 22 populations of V. oxycoccos from 12 National Forests in 10 states were sampled for germplasm and tissue (for genetic analysis), and evaluated for suitability as in situ reserves. The Plant Exchange Office assisted in the distribution of 236,641 accessions from the NPGS to researchers in 99 countries, and in the importation of shipments of germplasm from several foreign countries for U.S. researchers.

4. Accomplishments
1. Plant explorations. Plant explorations were conducted to obtain documented genetic resources for the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System. Between October 2017 and March 2018, when this project was replaced by a new one, two plant explorations were completed in the United States. Germplasm samples collected are genetic resources of bean, foxtail millet, maize, quinoa, amaranths, and herbaceous ornamentals. These accessions are new sources of genetic diversity that will soon become available from the National Plant Germplasm to scientists worldwide for use in crop breeding and other research.

2. GRIN-Taxonomy plant information resource. GRIN-Taxonomy remains an internationally recognized resource for information on the nomenclature and taxonomy of agricultural plants. More than 2,930 taxon records were updated or added in GRIN-Taxonomy during the reporting period, of which 1,125 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 requests from the National Agricultural Library and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). Correct classification and naming of germplasm accessions is critical for optimally curating and utilizing them. Many genebanks, research organizations, and individuals worldwide routinely rely on the information in GRIN-Taxonomy.

Review Publications
Stull, G., Schori, M., Soltis, P.S., Soltis, D.E. 2018. Character evolution and missing (morphological) data across the core asterids (Gentianidae). American Journal of Botany.
Kong, D., Schori, M., Li, L., Peng, H. 2017. Floral morphology of Gonocaryum with emphasis on the gynoecium. Plant Systematics and Evolution.