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Research Project: Management of Germplasm and Associated Descriptive Data for Crops Adapted to Arid Lands and Regeneration of Germplasm with Special Climate Needs

Location: Office of The Director

2023 Annual Report

Objective 1: Conduct research to develop genetic resource regeneration, maintenance, evaluation, or characterization methods and, in alignment with the overall NPGS Plan, apply them to priority arid-adapted plant genetic resources to avoid backlogs in genetic resource and information management. Sub-objective 1.A: Based on the data collected in the NPGS Plan, develop a long term PGR management strategy for addressing current needs and avoiding future backlogs in the management of the NALPGRU arid lands emerging crop collection. Sub-objective 1.B: Investigate and develop new PGR management methods for NALPGRU crops. Collect evaluation and characterization data and make them available through GRIN-Global and other data sources. Objective 2: Conduct research to develop regeneration methods and, in alignment with the overall NPGS Plan, apply them to priority plant genetic resources that require long seasons and/or arid climates so as to avoid backlogs in genetic resource regeneration. Objective 3: Acquire, distribute, and maintain the safety, genetic integrity, health, and viability of priority arid-adapted plant genetic resources and associated descriptive information. Sub-objective 3.A: Strategically increase genetic diversity of the Parthenium (guayule) and Opuntia collections by addressing stakeholder-identified gaps through plant exploration and exchange. Sub-objective 3.B: Continue to maintain the highest possible availability, quality, and security of seed and clonal germplasm in diverse collections of arid-adapted new crops. Sub-objective 3.C: Distribute high-quality germplasm in the form of seeds, cuttings, and plant tissue to stakeholders worldwide.

1.A: We will consult with partners to create a PGR management strategy based on the NPGS Plan. This strategy will include prioritized lists of backlogs to address by crop as well as plans for further reducing and preventing backlogs in the future. 1.B: We will identify core diversity and production subsets in the guayule collection. We will investigate seed quality in guayule regeneration by comparing caged and open-pollinated plants. If caging does not impact quality, we will follow with a comparison of caged plots with and without pollinators. We will phenotype the Opuntia collection, prioritizing the traits most useful to requestors (fruit soluble solids content, fruit size, seediness, spine length, etc). Additionally, we will upload existing photos to GRIN-Global. 2: Regeneration and back-up of accessions from other NPGS sites will be coordinated with the NPGS curators responsible for the crops. This service regeneration objective is distinct from regenerations for crops maintained by NALPGRU (3.B). Regeneration involves growing plants in the field, tracking inventory, controlling/facilitating pollination, monitoring for pests and diseases, collecting descriptor information and photos, harvesting and cleaning seed, and returning increased seed to the priority site along with data for upload to GRIN-Global. 3.A: We will coordinate with the New Crops CGC to plan exploration trips and apply for funding through the Plant Exchange Office (PEO). We will add diversity in Parthenium species through the Seeds of Success program and pursue options of in situ conservation on public lands in Texas through the PEO. We will conduct a gap analysis of the Opuntia collection using recently completed phenotypic and genotypic diversity analyses to determine future collection priorities. 3.B: NALPGRU collections are maintained as clonal and/or seed accessions, depending on the needs of the crop. Seed must be periodically regenerated to maintain viability and distribution. Each year seed inventories will be analyzed to identify accessions with the highest regeneration priority following the PGR management strategy developed in Sub-objective 1.A. Also following the PGR management strategy, seed of the best available quality will be transferred for backup to NLGRP in Ft. Collins, CO. The guayule field plots will be replanted from original seed in 4 stages. The Opuntia field block also requires re-propagation, and will be installed over 2 years. Some existing Opuntia has symptoms of ‘cladode-swelling disease’. The disease can be eradicated by regenerating the plant from asymptomatic tissue or cleaned up using cycles of thermotherapy. This program began in the last planning cycle, and we will continue to produce asymptomatic material for planting in the new perennial block. 3.C: NALPGRU receives requests for germplasm through GRIN-Global and reviews for legitimacy. Domestic requests are shipped directly after meeting phytosanitary requirements. International requests are sent to NGRL in Beltsville for coordination with APHIS and shipment to the destination.

Progress Report
This is the first report for project 2034-21000-013-000D, Management of Germplasm and Associated Descriptive Data for Crops Adapted to Arid Lands and Regeneration of Germplasm with Special Climate Needs, which began in March 2023. It replaces project 2034-21000-012-000D, Management of Arid Land Plant Genetic Resources and Regeneration of Accessions with Special Climatic Requirements. For more information, see the final report for the previous project. This project supports the mission of the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) by maintaining, evaluating, and distributing accessions of arid-land industrial crops and providing a long season regeneration site for accessions with special climatic requirements from other NPGS sites. Since the new project began in March 2023, the curator/agronomist position has been vacant, so progress has been limited to routine activities completed by the technical staff. Objective 1 includes research activities to improve genebank operations, enhance characterization of the collections, and develop a long-term plant genetic resource management strategy for the arid land industrial crops collection. Progress on this new objective has been limited due to the vacancy in the curator/scientist position, but a postdoctoral research associate has been hired to serve as interim curator and address items in this research objective. Progress toward Objective 2 was in two main areas: regenerations for other sites and serving as the backup site for the national hazelnut collection. We served other NPGS sites by regenerating annual accessions that cannot produce seed at their home sites because they do not have a long enough growing season or suffer excessive pest or disease pressure due to climate. The process is executed from receipt of seed at the beginning of the growing season, through planting in the greenhouse, transplanting to the field (unless the seed is sown in the field directly), isolating from pollinators (if necessary), harvest, and shipment of increased seed back to the home site. This includes frequent coordination with the curators of these crops and photo updates, some of which they use to add to the available descriptors on the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN-Global). In fiscal year (FY) 23, regenerations planted for other NPGS sites included 1,160 small grains, 265 garlic, 41 sunflower, 8 brassica, and 1 dalea accession. The hazelnut backup collection from Corvallis, Oregon, is being reestablished with newly propagated plants. In FY 23, 15 new trees were delivered from the home site planted in Parlier. This backup planting is ongoing and serves as security from the growing threat of filbert blight disease in Oregon. Objective 3 focuses on the maintenance, acquisition, and distribution of the collection of arid-land industrial crops. Our priority crops are a combination of clonal accessions (prickly pear, jojoba, yucca and agave) and seed propagated accessions (meadowfoam, bladderpod, guayule, buffalo gourd). In the first four months of this project, we have shipped two orders for germplasm from our site to domestic and international researchers, and have several more waiting for phytosanitary clearance. The guayule collection is maintained as seed collected from perennial field plots, and in FY 23, 14 new plots were established for recently acquired accessions. As part of a collaboration with scientists at the University of Nevada, Reno, funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, we continue to evaluate the productivity of spineless prickly pear accessions for biomass as well as evaluate the genetic diversity of the prickly pear collection. We continued the process of repropagating the prickly pear collection, using heat treatment as necessary to combat viral disease. Regular interactions with the New Crops Crop Germplasm Committee lead to collaborative efforts to improve management and identify priorities, and this year a manuscript has been submitted documenting an overall crop vulnerability statement for the collection of “new crops”, including guayule.

1. Guayule germplasm developed during WWII in Manzanar War Relocation Center added to public collection. Guayule is an alternative source of natural rubber currently under development for production in arid parts of the United States, and the National Plant Germplasm System collection in Parlier, California, is the only publicly available source of guayule seed. Breeders are continuously seeking new sources of genetic diversity to further improve the crop, but unfortunately much of the plant material that had been studied in the United States as part of the Emergency Rubber Project during WWII was lost before the public collection was established, and new seed sources are scarce. Recently, seed was donated to the National Plant Germplasm System from the family of former internees at Manzanar, where Japanese-American agronomists had also worked on improvement of the important alternative rubber crop. This plant material had been preserved by one of the former internees at his family home, and now it has been used to establish plots in the public collection at Parlier, California. This scientifically and historically valuable plant material will be maintained, and seed will be available for distribution through the GRIN-Global platform in 2024.