CROP GENETIC RESOURCE CONSERVATION AND THE THREAT POSED BY THE LOSS OF PUBLIC SECTOR PLANT BREEDING PROGRAMS

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  • 1 Department of Plant, Soil and Environmental Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469

Collections of crop genetic resources have been assembled and evaluated as part of plant breeding efforts and in that capacity have served as the foundation for genetic improvement of crops. Most of these collections have been held at public sector institutions, including both federal and state agricultural experiment stations. However, recent changes have occurred in government agricultural research policies and funding structure which have lead to a decline in public sector breeding programs. Breeders retire and are not replaced or, for other reasons, programs are discontinued. The loss of the breeding programs maybe adversely affecting the status of the associated germplasm, if no means are provided for continued conservation of the collections. The results of a nationwide survey to assess the number and status of crop germplasm collections associated with public sector plant breeding programs and the relationship of those collections to the National Plant Germplasm System will be discussed. Recommendations will be made in regard to coordination of activities to ensure conservation of the germplasm held in plant breeders' collections.

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