Submitted to: Dekker Encyclopedia of Plant and Crop Science
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: September 22, 2003
Publication Date: February 27, 2004
Citation: Dekker Encyclopedia of Plant and Crop Science
Genetic resources, including landraces (farmer varieties) and wild relatives of crops, are crucial to global food security. All countries depend on genetic resources from other countries to support agriculture. Exploration is the only means of obtaining samples of genetic resources (germplasm) that do not exist in ex situ collections. Background preparation for an exploration includes definition of goals, examination of germplasm available in genebanks, and study of taxonomic and other scientific literature. Political issues must also be considered as the unrestricted international exchange of germplasm that occurred for thousands of years has recently been superseded by international agreements recognizing national sovereignty over genetic resources. Planning an expedition involves arranging access agreements with host country authorities, identifying and establishing contacts with knowledgeable in-country field collaborators, timing, logistics, and field equipment. Important considerations in the field include number of sites to visit, number of plants to sample, sampling techniques, and the number and type of propagules to sample from each plant. Careful documentation of collections, including details on locality, plant description, and habitat are crucial. Herbarium voucher specimens are also necessary in many cases. After the expedition, quarantine may be necessary for some samples to ensure plant health. Acquired germplasm is deposited in ex situ collections, where it is maintained, increased, characterized, and made available for use by breeders and other researchers.