Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Ames, Iowa » Plant Introduction Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #316149

Research Project: Management of Crop Genetic Resources and Associated Information

Location: Plant Introduction Research

Title: Global access to maize germplasm provided by the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System and by U.S. plant breeders

Author
item KURTZ, BRADLEY - Dupont Pioneer Hi-Bred
item Gardner, Candice
item Millard, Mark
item Bretting, Peter
item NICKSON, THOMAS - Monsanto Corporation
item SMITH, J STEPHEN - Dupont Pioneer Hi-Bred

Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/13/2015
Publication Date: 12/16/2015
Citation: Kurtz, B., Gardner, C.A., Millard, M.J., Bretting, P.K., Nickson, T., Smith, J.C. 2015. Global access to maize germplasm provided by the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System and by U.S. plant breeders. Crop Science. 56(3):931-941.

Interpretive Summary: Maize (Zea mays L.) is the most important food crop in the world in terms of total production, with over one billion tonnes (1,016,740,000) produced in 2013 (FAOSTAT, 2014). Average yields have moved from less than 30 bushels/acre for open pollinated landraces to greater than 150 bushels/acre as a result of investment in intensive public and private breeding in the U.S., along with improved agronomic practices. Consequently, parental lines of hybrids that have contributed to genetic gain are of great interest to allow a continued, direct use in making hybrids and also for their use in further breeding. It is important to note that this yield increase is the result of appropriate incentives for breeding. Protection of intellectual property, included under the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) system, and the use of cutting edge science are key drivers of increased yields. The U.S. Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Act differs from similar laws in many countries; it provides a period of protection to germplasm developers, after which the germplasm becomes freely available. Unlike other laws, materials must become publicly available at the end of the protection period. Increasing breeding capacity requires enabling global flows (exchange) and use of a broader diversity of genetic resources (germplasm), and use of improved agronomic practices. These are critical to achieve increased crop production with reduced environmental impact, and on less land available for cultivation. The potential for seed producers and breeders to access inbred lines and other off-PVP germplasm is also enhanced practically by availability of thorough evaluation data including well characterized pedigrees, adaptation, and performance attributes. Germplasm exchange has become complicated; it is governed by international and national laws, and intellectual property rights (IPR) issues are entangled with access and utilization issues. Shands (2004) noted that countries should be encouraged to provide broad access to their genetic resources, as this improves their agricultural economy and promotes conservation. It is broadly recognized that outside of the U.S. germplasm has become less mobile and less accessible. The International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) was intended to facilitate access and exchange; distributions are governed by the Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) of the ITPGRFA. The U.S. manages the world's largest national germplasm collection (419,500 seed accessions as of January, 2014) that is available to scientists the world over with little cost or restriction to recipients, the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS), and is an ever more important resource to enable free movement and access to germplasm resources. This repository includes germplasm deposited under the U.S. Plant Variety Protection Act. The U.S. government contributes to worldwide exchange of well characterized and potentially high-performing germplasm, promoting and facilitating distribution of germplasm, including parental inbred lines of maize hybrids after the periods of PVP and patent protection expire. The maize collection is comprised of 20,624 accessions, only 2% of which are off-PVP inbreds. Demand for maize genetic resources has steadily risen from the 125-150,000 range during 2001-2006 to over 250,000 in 2009 and in 2011. This greatly exceeds distributions by any other genebank center during any period. Between 1987 - 2013, distributions of maize seed packets numbered 225,956, fulfilling 9,302 orders. Of these, 11% were to foreign entities in 73 countries, including genebanks, CGIAR centers, universities, and commercial entities. Sixteen countries accounted for 80% of foreign distributions; China received the largest proportion. While off-PVP germplasm comprises 2% of the

Technical Abstract: We report numbers of distributions of maize by the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) made during 1987 – 2013 to countries and categories of recipients. The NPGS distributed 225,956 maize packets of 33,586 unique accessions to 4,525 requestors between 1987 and 2013, fulfilling 9,302 orders. Distributions were primarily to United States (U.S.) entities (89%), with 24,705 (11%) among a total of 73 foreign countries. Of the total NPGS maize distributions reported here, 38,183 (17%) were expired or off-PVP germplasm developed either by DuPont Pioneer or by Monsanto. As discussions continue regarding terms of access to plant germplasm, we earnestly hope that facilitated access to germplasm will be recognized, once again, as the primary benefit of the Multilateral System under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA), and that provision of access will therefore remain an important guiding principle.