Location: Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU)2019 Annual Report
Objective 1: Efficiently and effectively acquire and maintain the safety, genetic integrity, health and viability of priority vegetable genetic resources, and distribute them and associated information worldwide. [NP301, C2, PS 2A] Sub-objective 1.A. Fill gaps in collections of tomato, onion, cole crops, winter squash, celery and radish through germplasm exchange, cooperator donations, and expired Plant Variety Protection material. Perform routine regenerations of accessions locally and through cooperators. Rescue currently unavailable accessions with low inventory or low viability if possible. Sub-objective 1.B. Ensure long term safety of collections by systematically completing backups of 2,000 seed per accession at Plant and Animal Genetic Resources Preservation (PAGRP), Ft. Collins, CO. Optimize workflow and seed storage operations to efficiently handle and distribute seed. Disseminate information associated with germplasm resources in publications and reports. Objective 2: Develop more effective germplasm maintenance, evaluation, or characterization methods and apply them to priority vegetable genetic resources. Record and disseminate evaluation and characterization data via GRIN-Global and other data sources. [NP301, C2, PS 2A] Sub-objective 2.A. Improve methods for germplasm regenerations for onion, cole crops, and winter squash through applying and optimizing best management practices of plant and seed production. Optimize protocols for data collection from routine regenerations including CGC descriptors for tomato, onion, cole crops and winter squash, and for in-house germination and seed quality tests for crops conserved. Sub-objective 2.B. Collaborate with ARS and other scientists to characterize quality traits in tomato, onion, and cole crops collections. Collaborate with Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN)-GLOBAL and appropriate public databases to ensure that data associated with germplasm resources are accessible via cross-links or searches. Objective 3: With other National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) genebanks and Crop Germplasm Committees, develop, update, document, and implement best management practices and Crop Vulnerability Statements for priority vegetable genetic resource and information management. [NP301, C2, PS 2A] Sub-objective 3.A. Strengthen and implement best management practices for conservation of germplasm through cooperation and consultation with CGCs and with other NPGS genebanks for Cucurbita (NC7, S9), Brassica (NC7), Allium (W6), and tomato (TGRC). Update the Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU) NE9 Manual of Procedures. Sub-objective 3.B. Collaborate with Cucurbit, Crucifer, Leafy Vegetable, Root and Bulb, and Tomato CGCs to update crop vulnerability statements.
PGRU will fill gaps in collections through germplasm exchange, cooperator donations, and expired Plant Variety Protection materials. Genetic diversity of tomato, Brassica oleracea (cole crops), Brassica rapa, onion, winter squash, radish, celery, and buckwheat collections will be restored and enhanced by identifying gaps and sources of germplasm to fill the gaps. We will use best management practices (BMP) to preserve and safe guard the collections. Any seed accession that drops below minimum requirements for seed quantity (1,000) or viability (70%) is routinely regenerated. We will ensure the long term safety of collections by systematically completing backups of accessions at PAGRP, Fort Collins, CO. Data from GRIN-Global will be used to analyze backup status of all accessions. Backup samples will be produced either from currently stored seed, or if this is not available, from regeneration of an accession. Distribution of vegetable crops is directed towards research and crop improvement needs. Whenever seed is requested for an accession with low seed supply, it is given priority for regeneration. We will cooperate with scientists from ARS and other public and private sectors to characterize priority traits in collections. PGRU will carry out the characterization and evaluation of key morphological, horticultural, genetic, and biochemical attributes of accessions during regeneration activities. Data for CGC descriptors for tomato, onion, cole crops, and winter squash will be routinely collected from regeneration plots during the growing season. Descriptor data will be collected on scheduled days depending on the crop and trait, and entered into a portable electronic tablet or smartphone. Characterization and evaluation data are distributed via GRIN-Global and other databases. Many accessions are unimproved for disease, pest and abiotic stress resistances or tolerances. Heat treatment of seed can effectively control a broad range of seed-borne pathogens. Heat treatment will be optimized and adopted as part of an integrated pest control program. Germination tests of regeneration plots will be performed each year. The knowledge, expertise, and experience of CGC members, and staff at other NPGS and international germplasm repositories will be leveraged to strengthen and improve germplasm conservation through BMP. Curators and other scientists meet on a regular basis at scientific conferences, CGC meetings, Regional Technical Advisory Committee meetings, and Plant Germplasm Operations Committee meetings. This provides many opportunities for mutually beneficial consultation, exchange of information, formulation of new ideas, and soliciting recommendations. All components of PGRU operations will be reviewed and documented as BMP with sufficient detail to reduce risk of any lapse in operations. Thereafter, the finalized PGRU Operations Manual will be reviewed and updated annually. We will also collaborate with Cucurbit, Crucifer, Leafy Vegetables, Root and Bulb, Tomato, Apple, Grape, and Prunus CGCs to update the Crop Vulnerability Statements.
This project addressed NP301 Action Plan Component 2 “Plant and microbial genetic resource and information management”, Objective 1 - efficiently and effectively acquire and maintain the safety, genetic integrity, health and viability of priority vegetable genetic resources, and distribute them and associated information worldwide, Objective 2 - develop more effective germplasm maintenance, evaluation, or characterization methods and apply them to priority vegetable genetic resources; record and disseminate evaluation and characterization data via GRIN-Global and other data sources, and Objective 3 - with other NPGS gene banks and Crop Germplasm Committees, develop, update, document, and implement best management practices and Crop Vulnerability Statements for priority vegetable genetic resource and information management. Delivery of vegetable seed to customers is the primary way in which ARS researchers in Geneva, New York serve the vegetable industry. In total, 148 types of vegetable crops and their wild relatives are managed by ARS researchers in Geneva, New York in the form of more than 12,000 seed samples kept in cold storage (Objective 1). This seed provides the genetic diversity needed to develop new vegetable varieties with disease resistance, tolerance to weather events and other stresses, and varieties with improved eating quality and nutritional content. During 2018, six commercially developed vegetable stocks were newly acquired including one onion, two cauliflower, and three celery varieties. During the 2019 growing season, approximately 220 varieties of vegetables (cabbage, radish, tomato, onion, and winter squash) were planted for the purpose of producing seed by ARS researchers in Geneva, New York and seed samples of 55 varieties (onion, winter squash) were sent to collaborators in Parlier, California and Las Cruces, New Mexico for seed production (Objective 1). ARS researchers in Geneva, New York distributed 13,618 samples of vegetable seed to requestors in 240 orders during 2018, and 4,577 samples in 108 orders from January – May 2019 (Objective 1). ARS researchers in Geneva, New York studied genetic diversity of radish. Understanding patterns of genetic diversity will help breeders and other researchers to continue to improve crop quality and meet consumer demands (Objective 2). Economically, radish is highly valuable and represents 2% of total vegetable production (7 million tons/year) in the world. In human diets, radish provides a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, minerals and carbohydrates. Radish is consumed as a root vegetable, a leafy vegetable, sprouts, seeds or as seed pods and is also used as cover crop or forage crop for livestock. For U.S. markets, breeding has focused on size and shape. DNA was sequenced for a set of 152 radish stocks originating from 35 countries. Results have provided improved resolution of genetic relationships within and among the stocks and geographical sources of origin. Understanding such relationships will inform the continued genetic conservation and genetic improvement of this important crop. ARS researchers in Geneva, New York participated in a genetic diversity study of Cole crops. Understanding patterns of genetic diversity will help breeders and other researchers to continue to improve crop quality and meet consumer demands (Objective 2). Cole crops are estimated to be worth more than $1.5 billion in 2018 annual production value in U.S. Cole crops are all very closely related to each other and include many crop types including broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, and kohlrabi, as well as several lesser well-known types, such as walking stick kale and marrow cabbage. However, very little is known about the original development of these types. Based on uncertainty of the closest wild plant relatives of these crops, several conflicting ideas on geographic origins have been proposed. Some evidence suggests an Italian origin, as there is a large diversity of wild relatives there, while others suggest England as the location of origin. By DNA sequencing a set of 225 varieties representing 19 different Cole crop types and eight different wild relatives, the closest wild relatives were identified. Results supported the origin of cultivation in the Mediterranean region. These results help further the understanding of genetic relationships needed for continued improvement of this highly diverse and nutritionally valuable set of vegetable crops. ARS researchers in Geneva, New York participated in a disease resistance study of onion. Discovering sources of disease resistance will help breeders and other researchers to develop new onion varieties (Objective 2). Onion is highly consumed in the U.S. either fresh as a condiment or in salads, as a spice, and as a major ingredient in cooking. The U.S. is the fourth largest producer of onion in the world and its economic value ranks 3rd amongst vegetable crops. However, production of this specialty crop has been badly affected by fungal diseases. One of the most devastating fungal diseases is Fusarium basal rot (FBR), which is widespread in all onion-growing regions across the globe. Approximately 100 varieties from the onion collection are being infected in the lab and tested for disease resistance to FBR. Disease symptoms will be evaluated and measured in several different tests. Results from these experiments will identify breeding material for improving onion cultivars for resistance to FBR. Organic food production is rapidly growing, but growers lack access to certified-organic seed and vegetable varieties that thrive under organic conditions. ARS researchers in Geneva, New York participated in a national project “Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative 3 (NOVIC3)”. The long-term goals are to enhance organically managed agriculture and support the organic seed industry (Objective 2). Crops include tomato, winter squash, cabbage, cucumbers, bell peppers, and corn. ARS researchers in Geneva, New York provided education for NOVIC3 to a broad community of farmers, gardeners, and educators, as well as plant material and demonstrations of mechanical equipment used in seed-saving practices. This education was provided at farm conferences and field days organized, for example, by growers’ groups and industry. We also provided information bulletins with methods for field operations, seed production, seed processing techniques, and additional sources of information on the internet such as eXtension and eOrganic. The highly technical nature of work performed by ARS researchers in Geneva, New York requires detailed documentation of procedures and cross-training of staff in order to reduce the vulnerability of routine operations over short and long terms. Electronic images, videos, and documents for a broad range of daily operations were compiled and the materials will be organized into a comprehensive Vegetable Crops Manual of Procedures (Objective 3). Staff were cross-trained so that lapses in specific activities can be avoided. ARS researchers in Geneva, New York continue to work closely with various vegetable Crop Germplasm Committees, i.e., representatives from seed and vegetable industries, to update Crop Vulnerability Statements that point out the potential weaknesses and threats to our food supply chain (Objective 3).
1. Critical vegetable crop seed maintained. Worldwide, vegetable breeders and other researchers need a ready source of genes to use to develop new, improved vegetable crops. ARS researchers in Geneva, New York, maintained 12,600 varieties of tomato, onion, radish, winter squash, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, tomatillo, asparagus and other vegetables including related wild plants for the long-term needs of crop improvement. This provided the genetic diversity needed to develop vegetable varieties with disease and pest resistance, tolerance to heat, cold, and drought stress, and varieties with improved flavor, quality, and nutrition, and ensured its availability in the long-term.
2. Seed produced for vegetable crops breeding, research, and education. There is a continuing need to grow, harvest, and store seed of vegetable crops and related wild plants to have seed available to provide necessary genes for crop improvement. This is due to loss of seed stocks over time due to aging and the depletion of seed as it is sent out around the world for breeding, research, and education. ARS researchers in Geneva, New York, ensured sufficient quantities of seed of diverse vegetable crops were available for distribution. Seed, bulbs, or plants were produced for 275 vegetable varieties in FY19. This ensures that seed is freely available upon request for qualified users worldwide. We shipped 13,618 samples of vegetable seed to customers in 240 orders during 2018, and 4,577 samples in 108 orders from January – May 2019.