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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » National Germplasm Resources Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #401238

Research Project: Plant Genetic Resource Acquisition, Conservation, International Exchange, and Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Support for the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System

Location: National Germplasm Resources Laboratory

Title: Conducting an exploration for plant genetic resources to be incorporated into the USDA National Plant Germplasm System

item WILLIAMS, KAREN - Retired ARS Employee

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/25/2023
Publication Date: 7/25/2023
Citation: Williams, K.A. 2023. Conducting an exploration for plant genetic resources to be incorporated into the USDA National Plant Germplasm System. Book Chapter. p. 1-13. Available at:

Interpretive Summary: This chapter is focused on expeditions managed by the USDA Plant Exploration and Exchange Program for germplasm to be deposited in the US National Plant Germplasm System. These expeditions are necessary when the targeted material is not already present and accessible in another germplasm collection. A successful plant exploration requires careful planning and preparation, as descried in the companion chapter “Planning a Plant Exploration.” The chapter includes links to sources with detailed guidance on the included topics.

Technical Abstract: Plant explorations have both logistical and technical aspects. Permission to collect must be in place before the exploration begins, and the process for obtaining it varies from country to country. Permission from national authorities is required in most countries except the United States. Explorations in other countries have added elements, such as meeting with national authorities and other officials at cooperating institutions, and planning and executing projects identified as benefit sharing. There are multiple considerations for collection and handling of seeds and clonal material on plant explorations. The viability of samples in the field varies among species and type of sample. Herbarium voucher specimens are recommended for documentation of collection of wild material and should be deposited with the appropriate institution. Thorough documentation (passport data) of germplasm collections is vital to effective conservation and utilization. Collector numbers that are unique and combine characters and numbers assist with tracking germplasm samples after they are collected. Some data will be related to the site (habitat, vegetation) and other data will be specific to the individuals collected. Another important part of documentation is the production of reports, which are written after the conclusion of an exploration, and should include input from all participants. For explorations in other countries, germplasm, herbarium voucher specimens, and documentation must be shared with collaborators. Plant explorers must take precautions to protect against accidental introduction of diseases, insects, noxious weeds, and other organisms when collected material is taken to their home country. In the United States, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) regulates the entry of plant materials. All germplasm imported into the United States must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the National Plant Protection Organization in the country in which it was collected.