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item Blackburn, Harvey

Submitted to: Poultry Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/4/2005
Publication Date: 2/1/2006
Citation: Blackburn, H.D. 2006. National animal germplasm program: challenges and opportunities for poultry genetic resources. Poultry Science. 85:210-215.

Interpretive Summary: During the past two decades there has been a contraction in university, industry and purebred poultry genetic resources. The situation is primarily driven by economic forces for all three groups. To address genetic diversity contractions and provide for long term genetic security the USDA Agricultural Research Service established the National Animal Germplasm Program in 1999. Since the program was initiated it has nationally surveyed minor and rare breeds of chickens and turkeys and determined that 20 chicken breeds and nine turkey breeds are in critical condition. Another aspect of the program is development of a collection of frozen tissue and germplasm that can be utilized for genomic studies, regeneration of the specific line and/or development of new populations. Currently, the collection contains 59 chicken lines and 2,915 tissue samples. Existing marketing channels will make market entry difficult for non-industrial chicken breeds. However, niche markets are developing which may provide opportunities for production of minor and rare poultry breeds.

Technical Abstract: In the U. S., poultry genetic resources have contracted due to economic pressures. Such contractions can potentially jeopardize the poultry industry and research communities ability to respond to future challenges. To address the loss of genetic resources for all livestock and aquatic species USDA established the National Animal Germplasm Program (NAGP) in 1999. Since the initiation of NAGP, population surveys have been conducted on non-industrial chicken and turkey breeds. These surveys not only provide insight into breed status but also a benchmark for future comparison. The survey results reveal that 20 chicken breeds and nine turkey breeds are in critical condition. A repository for cryopreserved germplasm and tissue has also been initiated and contains 59 chicken lines and 2,915 tissue samples. As NAGP with its industry and university partners continue developing the ex-situ collection there are research opportunities in the areas of cryopreserved tissue utilization and genetic diversity. For cryopreserved tissues several key research areas include improving the cryopreservation of rooster and tom semen by using cryoprotectants other than glycerol and the utilization of embryonic cells. While surveys have been conducted on public research lines and rare breeds, there is a void in understanding the level of genetic diversity present in U. S. populations. Therefore, an opportunity exists to perform a series of genetic diversity studies using molecular-based approaches. Such an evaluation can help clarify how different populations are in these two groups and thereby facilitate conservation strategies. There appears to be growing consumer interest in poultry products derived from heritage breeds and/or raised in non-industrial production systems. While the depth of such market trends is not known, such interest may provide an important niche for rare poultry breeds and thereby strengthening the base of genetic diversity.