Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/19/2002
Publication Date: 2/2/2003
Citation: Spooner, D.M., Williams, K.A. 2004. Germplasm acquisition. In: Goodman, R., editor. Encyclopedia of Plant and Crop Science. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker, Inc. p. 537-540. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: This book chapter explains the reasons we collect plant germplasm (plant genetic resources), the history of plant collecting, and the planning, conducting, and follow-up duties after the germplasm exploration. Plant genetic resources, including landraces (farmer's varieties) and wild relatives of our crops are crucial to global food security. These resources are distributed worldwide, but with a concentration of diversity in the southern hemisphere. The benefits from using plant germplasm to improve crops are felt worldwide. Germplasm acquisition has a long history, with records of exchanges between cultures dating back thousands of years. The early 19th century saw the development of major national collections. For example, the USDA plant exploration program began formally in 1898 with the creation of the Section of Seed and Plant Introduction that evolved into an organized U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) that is now the largest national germplasm system in the world with 450,000 samples covering over 10,000 species. At least a quarter of the yearly distributions made by the NPGS are to scientists outside the U.S. Extensive background work is critical to the success of germplasm explorations, with attention to detail needed at all stages from justifying the expedition, lining up sponsors, obtaining permits, conducting the expedition, export of germplasm, and follow-up reporting.