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Strengthening U.S. Genebank Management of Plant Germplasm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the National Strategic Germplasm and Cultivar Collection Assessment and Utilization Plan in support of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) U.S. National Plant Germplasm System’s (NPGS) mission.

The USDA-ARS NPGS is confident that implementing this plan will address current operational and research challenges. The collection is vital for maintaining the nation’s food supply by providing breeders and researchers the germplasm they need to furnish U. S. consumers with abundant, safe and affordable agricultural products.

As directed by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill, the plan provides an overview of the current NPGS status, strengths and weaknesses, and operational capacities for managing plant germplasm, which includes acquisition, maintenance, characterization, distribution, evaluation and genetic enhancement. It identifies the operational backlogs, inadequate plant germplasm management capacities and other crucial operational and research needs that threaten the availability of germplasm for crop improvement.

More importantly, this comprehensive 10-year plan includes strategies for meeting the preceding challenges based on data-driven assessments and recommendations from NPGS scientists and leadership, with guidance from the National Genetic Resources Advisory Council.  When successfully implemented, these strategies will result in:

  • Maintenance of more plant germplasm that are disease-free, securely backed up and available for research and breeding.
  • Enhancement of knowledge of the intrinsic genetic variation and high-value traits in that germplasm.
  • Acquisition, conservation and development of new plant germplasm with valuable traits.
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