USDA Germplasm Center Celebrates 50th
Anniversary By Laura McGinnis August 19, 2008
FORT COLLINS, Colo.--The
U.S. Department of
Agriculture's premier genebank is celebrating its 50th anniversary here
Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NCGRP), part of USDA's
Agricultural Research Service (ARS),
maintains the genetic diversity of the world's crops and livestock as living
germplasm that is distributed nationally and internationally to improve
agricultural productivity, fight hunger, improve nutrition, reduce pesticide
use and restore ecosystems.
"In 50 years, the NCGRP has made invaluable contributions to the
preservation of precious genetic resources," said ARS Administrator
B. Knipling. "These efforts continue to benefit the United States and the
world by ensuring that diverse animal and crop germplasm is available to
breeders and researchers."
More than 1 million samples of plants, animals, insects and microbes
are housed at NCGRP.
The germplasm that is preserved at NCGRP is an irreplaceable natural
resource that underpins U.S. food security and the global supply of food, fiber
and biofuels. These samples carry genes vital for combating emerging pest and
disease problems and environmental threats. Variation within the collection is
used to develop new products and specialty crops. Rapidly advancing research in
genomics and gene discovery make daily use of the huge collections at NCGRP.
During the 50 years of the center's existence, NCGRP research has made
major strides in the technology that keeps germplasm alive for decades or
centuries. NCGRP scientists introduced freezer and cryogenic storage of plant
germplasm to the world, and found new ways to capture and preserve genetic
diversity of crops and livestock. Managing large collections requires advanced
data systems and tools to identify and efficiently collect essential genetic
variation. NCGRP scientists are world leaders in developing and implementing
these state-of-art tools.
Like its germplasm, the technology developed at NCGRP is freely shared
with genebanks everywhere. NCGRP facilities, operations and research are the
model used to develop genebanks globally. NCGRP partners with other ARS
facilities, governmental agencies, industry and international collaborators to
support global efforts to improve human health and guide sustainable use and
management of the Earth's biodiversity.
Formerly known as the National Seed Storage Laboratory (NSSL), the
Center changed its name in 2001 to reflect the diverse array of plant materials
it stores, and to acknowledge the addition of the
Animal Germplasm Program (NAGP) and initiatives to preserve genetic
diversity of agronomically important insects and microbes.
In recognition of the NCGRP's 50th anniversary, the
Colorado Senate passed a joint
resolution earlier this year, recognizing the center for "globally renowned
scientific research, preservation efforts and service."