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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Geneva, New York » Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU) » Research » Research Project #439751

Research Project: Conservation and Utilization of Hemp Genetic Resources and Associated Information

Location: Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU)

2021 Annual Report

Objective 1: Efficiently and effectively acquire and maintain the safety, genetic integrity, health, and viability of priority hemp genetic resources, and distribute them and associated information worldwide. [NP301, C2, PS 2A] Objective 2: Develop effective and regulatory compliant genetic resource maintenance, evaluation, testing, and characterization methods and apply them to priority hemp genetic resources. Record and disseminate hemp evaluation and characterization data via GRIN-Global and other data sources. [NP301, C2, PS 2A] Objective 3: With other National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) genebanks and Crop Germplasm Committees, develop, update, document, and implement best management practices and a Crop Vulnerability Statement for priority hemp genetic resources and information management. [NP301, C2, PS 2A] Objective 4: Develop and apply research tools, knowledge of hemp genetics, the genetic control of priority traits, and genetic resources for hemp research, breeding, and crop improvement. [NP301, C1, PS 1A; PS 1B]

Hemp germplasm resources will be acquired via germplasm exchange from public and private sector collaborators and collection if Plant Exploration grants are awarded. This work will follow all federal, state, and ARS best management practices (BMPs) for hemp research activities. Diverse feral populations, landraces, breeding stock, synthetic lines, and other hemp germplasm types will be maintained in sufficient population sizes to retain genetic diversity and increased in compliant growth chamber and greenhouse conditions and distributed with associated information. Any accession that drops below minimum requirements for seed quantity (2,000) or viability (70%) will be 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 from accession regeneration. Whenever seed is requested for an accession with low seed supply, it will be given priority for regeneration. We will cooperate with scientists from ARS and other public and private sectors to define and characterize priority traits in the hemp collection. This project will characterize and evaluate key morphological, horticultural quality, genetic, and biochemical attributes of hemp accessions during regenerations and via stakeholder collaborations. Characterization and evaluation data will be collected using an electronic tablet for distribution via GRIN-Global and other databases. The knowledge, expertise, and experience of CGC members, and staff at other NPGS and international germplasm repositories will be leveraged to develop a Crop Vulnerability Statement for priority hemp genetic resources and information management while strengthening and improving germplasm conservation through BMP. Curators and other scientists will meet on a regular basis online, at scientific conferences, CGC meetings, Regional Technical Advisory Committee meetings, and Plant Germplasm Operations Committee meetings, providing many opportunities for consultation, information exchange, and idea formulation. All components of Hemp Genetic Resources Unit operations will be reviewed and documented as BMP with sufficient detail to reduce risk of any lapse in operations. Various pre-breeding approaches will be applied to newly acquired hemp genetic resources: materials will be screened for individuals segregating for critical priority traits and isolated as specific inventories. These materials will be used to develop populations used to map priority traits to genomic regions and identify causal genes regulating these traits. Additionally, select inventories will be targeted as inputs into partnering hemp research, breeding, and crop improvement programs to develop elite inbred lines or commercial hybrid cultivars.

Progress Report
ARS researchers in Geneva, New York, developed high-throughput hemp seed increase protocols that control for dioecious and wind-pollination biology with private and public hemp breeding collaborators (Objective 1). During the first half of 2021, collection of hemp germplasm resources was delayed due to non-agency federal approval processes, although associated information on diverse hemp germplasm resources from 17 entities was gathered. This constitutes an estimated 1,000 hemp accessions to be added to the collection once enhanced security systems are approved (Objective 1). In addition, Stansell was listed as a Co-PI or collaborator on four grant proposals. ARS researchers prepared a NPGS Hemp Germplasm Characterization and Descriptor Handbook based on a thorough review of 368 peer-reviewed publications, trade journals, plus a stakeholder survey. The goal of this handbook is to assist breeders and other researchers in identifying accessions with specific traits, to facilitate the selection of germplasm in crop improvement programs, to designate and maintain a core collection of diverse materials, to identify duplicate accessions and reduce costs of hemp genetic resource conservation, to identify gaps in the existing collections and help formulate strategies for future collection and conservation efforts, and to increase stakeholder utility and accessibility of hemp germplasm resources (Objective 2). This handbook will set a precedence for evaluation and inclusion of associated fiber, oil, secondary metabolite, and other priority trait information within GRIN-Global.