The USDA–ARS active collection of Malus includes over 2500 accessions maintained as field-grown trees at the Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU), Geneva, N.Y. Nearly 30% of this collection is presently cryopreserved as dormant buds at the National Seed Storage Laboratory, Fort Collins, Colo., as a backup security collection. Successful bud-grafting recovery rates (≥40%) after one to four years of cryogenic storage have been documented for over 675 of 750 accessions tested. However, current protocols dictate budwood collection at PGRU from late December through early March, when buds are thought to be optimally acclimated for desiccation and slow freezing to –30°C, our pretreatment for cryopreservation. This causes a processing bottleneck. Our observations suggest temporary storage of budwood at –4°C after field harvest is possible, but we had not tested this directly. Therefore, we collected budwood from four accessions representing different levels of cold tolerance on six dates from January to March, 1995. Dormant buds were processed for cryopreservation monthly after storage in sealed bags at –4°C for 1 to 6 months. Recovery rates ranged from 55% to 100%. Neither collection date nor length of storage at –4°C affected rate of recovery. These results suggest we can significantly increase the throughput and efficiency of our cryopreservation efforts, thereby enhancing management and security of the Malus collection.
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