Submitted to: Crop Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/14/1995
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Germplasm collections can be thought of as banks that contain plants with different genes from around the world and that preserve biodiversity. By studying the differences among plants and better understanding how different climates, soils, and other factors affect the combinations of genes that are found in plants, plant breeders and other users of germplasm collections will be able to more quickly identify traits that ar best for improving crops. One way to speed up this process is to classify plants by the natural environmental features in which they are found. This information can indicate which plants may be best adapted to the environments in which they are to be used and to help determine where to look for plants that are not in present collections. In this research, we have looked at several ways to identify key environmental features of the collection environment so that germplasm resources can be classified in this way. By utilizing the procedures presented, it should be possible to provide germplasm collection users a better idea of the natural environments from which the plants they are using come from, which ones may be best suited for their uses, and assist with documenting the amount of biodiversity that is found in our plant germplasm collections.
Technical Abstract: Plant germplasm collections are important respositories of genes which help ensure the preservation of potentially useful sources of genetic variation. Detailed information about genetic differences among individuals or groups of accessions is critical for management and utilization of germplasm collections. Presently, a description of the collection site is required when collecting accessions, but the kinds and amount of information recorded that describe the natural environmental features of the collection site may vary greatly depending on the collector. This paper discusses the need for providing standardized and detailed ecological descriptors for collected accessions that can be entered into the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) database and provides a set of guidelines to accomplish this. Proposed in this paper are: (i) a flexible set of ecological descriptors that capture the most important ecological features of the collection site and its environment so that a standardized description can be given for the natural conditions where the accessions were found; (ii) a revised accession data collection form that can be used to describe the natural features of the collection site; and (iii) a method to retroclassify poorly documented accessions that do not have detailed descriptions of the collection site. The widely adapted perennial forage legume Lotus corniculatus L. is used to demonstrate the principles in this paper.