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Research Project: Innovative Strategies and Methods for Improving the Management, Availability, and Utility of Plant Genetic Resource Collections


Project Number: 3012-21000-016-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Mar 26, 2018
End Date: Jul 25, 2019

Obj. 1: Develop, assess, and validate protocols and strategies for more efficiently and effectively storing plant genetic resources under conventional (i.e., freezer) conditions. 1.A: Revise current seed banking “standards” for improved performance. 1.B: Assess variation of seed longevity and develop methods to measure early aging effects. Obj. 2: Develop and test methods and strategies for more efficiently and effectively cryopreserving plant genetic resources. 2.A: Improve effectiveness or efficiency of cryogenic storage for dry propagules (i.e., no “freezable” water). 2.B: Improve effectiveness of cryoprotection and recovery for hydrated propagules (i.e., containing “freezable” water). 2.C: Develop cryoexposure as a possible tool to identify presence/absence of endophytes. Obj. 3: Design and test methods and strategies for exploiting genomic data to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the NPGS’ plant genetic resource management projects. 3.A: Develop strategies to collect and analyze genomic data for improved collection management. 3.B: Demonstrate use of genetic tools for sample identification. 3.C: Characterize the influence of environment on genomic diversity held in collections. Obj. 4: Formulate and validate methods and strategies for efficiently and effectively sampling, preserving, and using the genetic diversity of selected crop wild relatives. 4.A: Strategies to use genetic data to inform collection management about identity, diversity, integrity, and usefulness of CWRs. 4.B: Identify improved conservation methods for securing CWR collections, especially at clonal repositories.

The Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit (PGPRU) of the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation (NLGRP) embraces its unique mission to develop strategies and technologies for improving the management, availability and utility of plant genetic resource (GR) collections, especially those of the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS). NPGS collections at active sites are vulnerable to abiotic and biotic threats, making it imperative that our national agricultural genetic resource treasures are safeguarded for future generations. Our challenge is to identify, develop, and document optimal methods for securing more than 15,000 species of cultivated and wild plant germplasm in the most efficient way possible, taking into account the type of propagule (seeds, pollen, dormant buds, shoot tips) as well as the storage platform (usually in a mechanical freezer or in liquid nitrogen). We will also leverage genetic and genomic tools to inform collection management and to improve delivery of associated data to customers and stakeholders. This project will have worldwide impact by delivering new technologies, standardized Best Practices, novel approaches, and new perspectives for improved genebank management. This unit works closely with the co-located project, Plant Genetic Resources Preservation Program (PGRPP), to transfer and implement technologies that increase the capacity to preserve diverse plant genetic resources and to reduce genebanking costs while increasing quality and accessibility of samples and associated information.