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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » National Germplasm Resources Laboratory » Research » Research Project #434403

Research Project: Develop, Enhance, and Operate GRIN-Global and Other Genetic Resource Information Systems to Support the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System and Other USDA-ARS Genetic Resource Collections

Location: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory

2022 Annual Report

Objective 1: Operate GRIN-Global and other USDA-ARS genetic resource information management systems to safeguard and deliver invaluable passport and descriptive data, and comply with information management system directives from USDA-ARS, USDA, and the U.S. Federal government as a whole. Sub-objective 1.A: Administer and maintain GRIN/GRIN-Global hardware and software systems to ensure uninterrupted operations, in compliance with policies and procedures to protect information integrity and security. Sub-objective 1.B: Document GRIN-Global with guides and manuals, and train NPGS users to facilitate acceptance and efficient usage of the system. Sub-objective 1.C: Deliver information about other agricultural genetic resources collections and related programs through GRIN web pages. Objective 2: Continue to expand the capacity and capabilities of the GRIN-Global plant genetic resource information management system to meet the needs of crop curators and genetic resource users, and to ensure smooth integration of its data with information from other sources, such as model organism databases. Sub-objective 2.A: Enhance GRIN-Global by optimizing database, middle tier, and presentation tier features and functions. Sub-objective 2.B: Expand the capability of GRIN-Global to exchange data with other accession-based information management systems.

The GRIN-Global software will be enhanced by the Development Team using agreed upon tools, principles, and practices. The features and functions will be improved for the Curator Tool used by National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) genebank staff, the Administrator Tool used by system administrators, the Middle Tier that enforces the business rules, and the Public Website used by global researchers and germplasm requestors. New software releases will be scheduled at regular intervals. All released versions of the software will be deposited into the GRIN-Global international code repository and made freely available to collaborators. The project will provide as much technical assistance to international partners as is feasible, and will participate in global genebank community discussion, planning and implementation events. Documentation, training, and help materials will be developed using a variety of formats to ensure maximal and efficient utilization of the system by NPGS genebanks. NPGS genebank staff will be provided ongoing opportunities to receive training on using GRIN-Global. The project will provide secure and reliable access to the information management system for internal and external users. All hardware and software components will be operated in compliance with USDA and ARS cybersecurity policies and procedures. The project will also operate the GRIN pages that document the USDA National Genetic Resources Program. These include providing public access to informational pages or searchable databases for animal, insect, microbial, and plant collections. GRIN will also serve as the public repository of information about the activities of the National Genetic Resources Advisory Council of USDA.

Progress Report
Five new versions of the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) Global public website and server components were released between June 2021 and June 2022. The most prominent of many enhancements made in the past year are: 1) The ability to request plant material by inventory as well as accession. This especially benefits clonal collections that may distinguish among sub-clones of a given accession; for example, male and female plants of dioecious taxa; 2) A redesign of the GRIN Taxonomy search interface so that it harmonizes with the accession and descriptor search menus. The taxonomy search results are also now displayed in a sortable tabular format, and with an embedded search feature; 3) The addition of a seasonal availability concept for requesting germplasm. This primarily benefits temperate deciduous clonal collections that are usually distributed as dormant propagules. The curators can now select a yearly date range in which they will accept requests for material, and this will be displayed on the public website pages and enforced in the shopping cart; 4) A taxonomy regulation search was added under the GRIN Taxonomy menu. This allows for queries of U.S. state and territorial regulations that govern the importation and interstate movement of plant material, and for the international exchange of rare and endangered plants. This search provides beneficial background information, but it does not instruct users how to obtain necessary permits or comply with regulations. A new component of the web-based GRIN-Global Tools for internal users was released. This Non-Research Request (NRR) Tool allows us to filter and separately evaluate incoming germplasm requests that have characteristics suggesting they are not within our distribution policy, i.e. for home or community gardening, or basic educational projects that do not require unique and valuable germplasm, etc. A team of 3-4 NPGS staff are serving as the NRR reviewers to evaluate incoming requests that are flagged by the NRR Tool. The tool also allows for a uniform U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS)-wide means of communicating with requestors, and to the genebank locations about multi-site requests. As of early June 2022, the NRR Tool and review team had processed more than 4300 incoming orders, with about 58% of them being rejected. In June 2022, GRIN applications were migrated from a contract vendor provided instance of the Microsoft Azure cloud to ARS Azure, an instance managed by the USDA Cloud Broker Office.

1. GRIN is available continuously as a global resource. The Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) database was publicly available almost continually throughout fiscal year 2022. During the COVID-19 pandemic, GRIN remained fully operational although shipments for NPGS germplasm were reduced. GRIN provided valuable and comprehensive information about agricultural genetic resources, especially those of the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS). As of June 2022, NPGS genebanks have distributed more than 100,000 plant germplasm samples in the calendar year based on requests received through GRIN. This material is used by global scientists to improve agricultural production and sustainability.

2. GRIN-U launched as an open access site for plant genetic resources (PGR) education and training. A new member of the GRIN family of applications was launched to support a NIFA-funded project to enhance educational and training opportunities in the broad areas of plant germplasm convervation and utilization, and genebank operations. The site is called GRIN-U for GRIN-University or GRIN-You and is freely available online. This project is providing WordPress framework through which project collaborations, primarily at Colorado State University and Iowa State University, can publish visual (videos, virtual tours, podcasts) and printed (e-books, infographics, manuals) materials on a variety of topics related to PGR management and plant genebank operations. This site will help train a new generation of plant scientists and technical staff, as well as the broader university student and general public communities, about the importance of PGR in global food production and security.