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- Author or Editor: Christopher M. Richards x
The USDA-ARS National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) provides critical genetic resources to researchers and breeders worldwide. Users of the NPGS materials need access to data for genetic and descriptive characteristics of the plant materials. New tables and codes have been added to the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) database to hold raw data relating to molecular markers and alleles. The revised tables accommodate multiple marker types; provide raw data for individuals; accept polyploid data; and provide a record of methods, standards, and control values. A long-term goal is to make the GRIN molecular tables fully interoperable with the National Center for Biotechnology Information database as well as bioinformatic databases (model organism and clade organism databases). The development of this capacity provides critical data infrastructure for future genotype–phenotype association studies and gene discovery.
Wild plant genetic resources are increasingly becoming valuable for breeding, genomics, and ornamental horticulture programs. Wild relatives of horticultural species may offer desirable traits that are not available in cultivated varieties, but “wilds” often also have traits that are highly undesirable. Advances in comparative genomics and marker-assisted breeding facilitate the inclusion of the valued traits from wild materials in plant breeding programs. As technologies advance, wild plant genetic resources will become even more valuable for future research developments. This serves as an introduction to a series of proceedings articles from the American Society of Horticultural Science meetings in 2010 workshop entitled “Horticultural Value of Wild Genetic Resources.”
Plant genetic resource collections provide novel materials to the breeding and research communities. Crop wild relatives may harbor completely novel forms of allelic variation for biotic and abiotic resistance as well as masked genes for improved quality and production. This variation has been shaped by the environment from which the plant materials were collected. With detailed original source information, genetic assessments of germplasm collections can go beyond the basic measurements of collection diversity and breeding for simple traits to assessments of natural variation in environmental contexts. Availability of detailed documentation of passport, phenotypic, and genetic data increases the value of all genebank accessions. Inclusion of georeferenced sources, habitats, and sampling data in collection databases facilitates interpretation of genetic data for genebank accessions with wild origins.
Garlic (Allium sativum L.) has been clonally propagated for thousands of years because it does not produce seed under standard cultivation conditions. A single garlic accession frequently displays a high degree of phenotypic plasticity that is likely to be dependent upon soil type, moisture, latitude, altitude, and cultural practices. The diversity observed by collectors has occasionally led to the renaming of varieties as they are exchanged among growers and gardeners. As a result, there are numerous garlic varieties available both commercially and within the USDA National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) that may be identical genotypically, yet have unique cultivar names. To address this possibility, we performed amplified fragment-length polymorphism (AFLP) analysis on a comprehensive selection of 211 Allium sativum and Allium longicuspis accessions from NPGS and commercial sources. We used several statistical approaches to evaluate how these clonal lineages are genetically differentiated and how these patterns of differentiation correspond to recognized phenotypic classifications. These data suggest that while there are extensive duplications within the surveyed accessions, parsimony and distance based analyses reveal substantial diversity that is largely consistent with major phenotypic classes.
There are several Central Asian Malus species and varieties in the USDA-ARS National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) apple collection. Malus sieversii is the most comprehensively collected species native to Central Asia. Other taxa such as M. sieversii var. kirghisorum, M. sieversii var. turkmenorum, M. pumila, and M. pumila var. niedzwetzkyana have primarily been donated to the collection by other institutions and arboreta. We sought to determine if genetic and/or phenotypic differences among the individuals that make up the gene pools of these taxa in the NPGS exhibit unique characteristics. Genetic data, based on microsatellite analyses, suggested that the diversity within each taxa is significantly greater than that among taxa. Trait data also revealed very few differences among taxa, the primary characteristic being the dark red fruit coloration and tinted flesh color of the accessions assigned to M. pumila var. niedzwetzkyana resulting from a known single-gene mutation in anthocyanin production. We found that M. sieversii is a highly diverse species with a range in genetic and phenotypic trait variation that includes the characteristics of the other Central Asian taxa of interest. We conclude that the gene pools that comprise the accessions within the NPGS Central Asian Malus collection are highly overlapping with respect to both phenotypic traits and genotypic characters.
The genetic diversity of a wild Malus population collected in the Kyrgyz Republic was compared with seedlings of Malus sieversii collected in Kazakhstan. Based on microsatellite marker results, we conclude that the population of 49 individuals collected in the Kyrgyz Republic includes private alleles and this population is assigned to a common genetic lineage with M. sieversii individuals found in the Karatau Mountain range of Kazakhstan. We recommend that a subset of these individuals be included in the National Plant Germplasm System Malus collection so they may be made available to breeders, physiologists, and other scientists for further examination.
Edible european pears (Pyrus communis L. ssp. communis) are derived from wild relatives native to the Caucasus Mountain region and eastern Europe. Microsatellite markers (13 loci) were used to determine the relationships among 145 wild and cultivated individuals of P. communis maintained in the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS). A Bayesian clustering method grouped the individual pear genotypes into 12 clusters. Pyrus communis ssp. caucasica (Fed.) Browicz, native to the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, Crimea, and Armenia, can be genetically differentiated from P. communis ssp. pyraster L. native to eastern European countries. The domesticated pears cluster closely together and are most closely related to a group of genotypes that are intermediate to the P. communis ssp. pyraster and the P. communis ssp. caucasica groups. Based on the high number of unique alleles and heterozygosity in each of the 12 clusters, we conclude that genetic diversity of wild P. communis is not fully represented at the NPGS. Additional diversity may be present in seed accessions stored in the NPGS and more pear diversity could be captured through supplementary collection trips to eastern Europe, the Caucasus Mountains, and the surrounding countries.
Seeds from wild Malus orientalis trees were collected during explorations to Armenia (2001, 2002), Georgia (2004), Turkey (1999), and Russia (1998). Seedling orchards with between eight and 171 individuals from each collection location were established at the U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU) in Geneva, NY. Genotypic (seven microsatellite markers) and disease resistance data were collected for the 776 M. orientalis trees. The genetic diversity of the 280 individuals from Armenia and Georgia was compared with data previously published for the M. orientalis individuals from Russia and Turkey. A total of 106 alleles were identified in the trees from Georgia and Armenia and the average gene diversity ranged from 0.47 to 0.85 per locus. The genetic differentiation among sampling locations was greater than that found between the two countries. Six individuals from Armenia exhibited resistance to fire blight (Erwinia amylovora), apple scab (Venturia inaequalis), and cedar apple rust (Gymnosporangium juniperi-virginianae). The allelic richness across all loci in the individuals from Armenia and Georgia was statistically the same as that across all loci in the individuals from Russia and Turkey. A core set of 27 trees was selected to capture 93% of the alleles represented by the entire PGRU collection of 776 M. orientalis trees. This core set representing all four countries was selected based on genotypic data using a modified maximization algorithm. The trees selected for the M. orientalis core collection will be added to the main field collection at the PGRU.
We estimate the minimum core size necessary to maximally represent a portion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Plant Germplasm System apple (Malus) collection. We have identified a subset of Malus sieversii individuals that complements the previously published core subsets for two collection sites within Kazakhstan. We compared the size and composition of this complementary subset with a core set composed without restrictions. Because the genetic structure of this species has been previously determined, we were able to identify the origin of individuals within this core set with respect to their geographic location and genetic lineage. In addition, this core set is structured in a way that samples all of the major genetic lineages identified in this collection. The resulting panel of genotypes captures a broad range of phenotypic and molecular variation throughout Kazakhstan. These samples will provide a manageable entry point into the larger collection and will be critical in developing a long-term strategy for ex situ wild Malus conservation.
Pacific crabapple [Malus fusca (Raf.) C.K. Schneid.] is found in mesic coastal habitats in Pacific northwestern North America. It is one of four apple species native to North America. M. fusca is culturally important to First Nations of the region who value and use the fruit of this species as food, bark and leaves for medicine, and wood for making tools and in construction. However, little is known about either distribution or genetic diversity of this species. To correct this deficiency, we used habitat suitability modeling to map M. fusca habitat types with species occurrence records. The species apparently occupies at least two distinct climate regions: a colder, drier northern region and a warmer, wetter southern region. Total area of modeled habitat encompasses ≈356,780 km2 of low-lying areas along the Pacific coast. A total of 239 M. fusca individuals sampled from across its native range were genetically compared using six microsatellite markers to assess for possible geographic structuring of genotypes. The primers amplified 50 alleles. Significant isolation by distance was identified across the ≈2600 km (straight line) where samples were distributed. These results may help establish priorities for in situ and ex situ M. fusca conservation.