54-1 PROTECTING THE GENETIC
genetic resources must be
implemented in response to scientific strategies based on our
ogy. Without sound scientific approaches to conservation,
organizational strategies will fall short
ensuring the protec-
the very species they were established to protect.
Sound scientific strategies are needed to guide conservation
efforts from germplasm acquisition to management
the national and international levels. This will neces-
sitate integrated approaches to comprehensively protect the
genetic library represented by global plant genetic resources,
including greater interaction between scientists working at
the three levels
biological diversity: genetic, species, and
the three levels which comprise global biological
diversity, genetic diversity has received the greatest attention
within the agricultural community. Genetic diversity refers to
the total genetic information contained in individual plants
a species, each containing a unique assembly
tuting its evolutionary heritage. This diversity begins at the
molecular level, is carried as sequences
chromosomes, and provides a foundation for environmental
adaptation and ultimately for the evolution
This focus on genetic diversity and its application to
modem crop improvement allows for manipulation
netic diversity within time (Duvick, 1984). However, a focus
on genetic diversity and ex situ collections alone is not
adequate for the needs
global agriculture. For conservation
genetic resources to maintain its relevancy, greater under-
the remaining two elements
species and ecosystem diversity, will be needed. These
components offer the potential for diversity in place as
opposed to time.
International Service for
National Agricultural Research
Hague, the Netherlands
The need for integrated conservation strategies can lead to
confusion regarding the types
available, largely because the
genebank' has come to be
equated with the refrigerated seed store. Ex situ samples may
be conserved as seed, cultured cells or tissue, or growing
plants. In situ may involve a target species as a component
an ecosystem without genetic management or a specific
genetic reserve with management intervention.
Integrated conservation considers a range
resources and methods for use, depending on the type
genepool, or biological entity
concern (Falk, 1990). In the
crop plants, which have immediate utility, most are
amenable to seed storage. Some require complementary in
vitro conservation, and with others, orchards are used as field
genebanks. Not all are suitable for long-term storage.
An additional responsibility rests with the international
community to ensure that national programs relate to interna-
tional interests based on commodities. Collections main-
tained by commodity-based International Agricultural Re-
search Centers (lARCs) represent the latter, whereas national
collections represent a spectrum
diverse activities related
variously to plant introduction, local conservation, and plant
breeding. Some are large, integrated, mUlti-crop programs,
e.g., in India, China, Brazil, Russia, and USA; others are
related to very few crops; and others are solely collections
plant introductions. The Food and Agriculture Organization
the United Nations (F AO) Commission on Plant Genetic
Resources presents one means to re-frame national program
aims, assure operating funds, and provide global linkages.
Many programs will be viable into the future; others may
fail, so the security
collections, long a strategic aim
International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (lBPGR)
Printed in International Crop Science
1993. Crop Science Society of
America, 677 S. Segoe
Madison, WI 53711, USA.
will become vitally important. Storage facilities will be
transformed into real genebanks, fully functioning with nec-
essary regeneration, documentation, and evaluation proce-
dures in place. Many programs are operating at functional
capabilities and are unable to systematically meet user de-
mand. This illustrates a major gap in the international sys-
management and efficiency. Nor should this
diluted by spending more on creating public
in schemes for on-farm conservation
tive forms until there is indeed global security
food-crop germplasm and representative collections
A more integrated approach to conservation which en-
courages the inter-relation
systems mentioned above would
allow a more comprehensive conservation program to emerge.
In so doing, ex situ collections become conservation collec-
tions, defined as collections comprising representative ge-
species according to the best available
the species' population biology.
They are maintained in one
more forms (such as growing
plants, seeds, and tissue culture) and curated for permanent
maintenance (Center for Plant Conservation, 1991). Adop-
collection and management guidelines will be neces-
sary in updating ex situ collections to conservation collec-
tions and to ensure their emergence into an international
system that takes advantage
multiple conservation meth-
ods. Present tasks include:
1. Sort out collections which conserve materials already
well conserved and duplicated elsewhere, remove redun-
Make collections more representative
genetic diversity in the crop genepools.
3. Provide better scientific standards and guidelines for all
4. Develop management guidelines for strategic planning,
funding allocation, and cooperation with other programs.
These all rely
good documentation systems integrated
across programs and based
individual commodities. For
instance, sorting out
done when it is known
who stores what, and redundancies can
collection data and characterization data enable unique mate-
rials to be identified, provide knowledge
primitive cultivars originated so that they can be
conserved in the right areas in relation to grow-outs, and
facilitate decisions on what should justifiably be conserved
Making the collections more representative means analyz-
ecogeographic differentiation, identifying
related species that comprise crop genepools, ensuring that
the effort is not being targeted to save only 10%
known diversity, and planning for additional exploration and
collecting to amplify collections while avoiding duplication
WILLIAMS & COHEN
effort. Genetic erosion will not wait for approval
ing international agreements
Action needs to be spurred by scientists, as it was in the
past, because comparatively little is known
distribution in many cases, and only scien-
tists can give the best-informed opinion. We believe that
emergency action plans should be formulated for major
commodities, to be completed in a five-year period. Each
should have elements
collecting, integrated database de-
velopment, and secure storage and description. They would
address filling gaps identified in the early 1980s (Williams,
1984) and some that still remain today (Williams, 1991).
Such action plans could take into account the numbers
samples estimated to be required by the World Resources
Institute (WRI, 1992) for crop genepools, forest species,
medicinal plants, ecosystem rehabilitation, and traditional
underexploited plants. Many existing institutional operations
could be "signed up" for this endeavor with some re-alloca-
these action plans would have accomplished much for true
conservation collections despite a degree
They would be seen as insurance policies and would
properly complement other activities such as in situ conser-
ecosystems. At the same time, a major gap could be
addressed: how to integrate ex situ activities with in situ
programs. Leadership is desperately needed to provide di-
verse guidelines for genetic management
situ and cross-indexing databases
protected area invento-
situ integrated databases. For example, as many
as 200 crop species originated in tropical and subtropical
forests, and many still have wild populations there (Smith et
al., 1992), but no detailed databases provide information for
either conservationists or crop enhancers. The availability
emergency action plans would make it easier for national
programs to identify their own roles and for the strategically-
determined national plan
action (Cohen et al., 1991) to be
nations on plant
IN GENETIC RESOURCES
resources is a multi-institutional, multi-
component effort. Funds required to effectively and effi-
ciently preserve genetic resources for future generations have
not been properl y estimated nor provided for required conser-
vation efforts, as exemplified by the U.S. National Plant
Germplasm System (NAS, 1991).
What are potential sources
funding for conservation
genebank -based genetic resources? Tax -based revenues sup-
porting conservation represent a major portion
funds. However, general deficiencies in this sector, coupled
with a lack oflong-term investment strategies, is a recognized
problem (Mares, 1986). In the USA, approximately 2%
national budget ($14 billion in 1983) was allocated to domes-
tic natural resources and environment programs. Because
weak economies in many developing countries, an equivalent
expenditure is virtually impossible. Contributions by the
PLANT GENETIC RESOURCES
1989 for conservation
diversity abroad were $62.9
million, yet countries receiving larger portions of these funds
still lacked resources to curb the loss
Greater support must be obtained for conservation-level
increase returns derived through use of ge-
netic resources. Without such investment, and recognition of
this investment, resources will remain untapped,
sealed in a vault or be used without recognition, credit,
or documentation provided to the relevant conservation pro-
gram, or, be exploited in a nonsustainable manner.
effect, ex situ programs may compete with one another
users discover which program is most able
provide reliable services. Many user groups, both public and
high-quality , well-characterized samples
of conserved accessions. Thus, a potential source of income
being missed because genebanks are often not able
effectively conserve, characterize, and ensure viability of
accessions. Over time, users will pay careful attention
quality of service provided by each conservation program.
Certainly, there can be little claim
fees for dead or inviable
seed samples or for accessions that cannot be found due
inaccurate inventories, and that are infested with pathogens,
poorly characterized. It is also a concern when no
forethought is given to the potefltial worth of such material
the host country institution.
the contrary, when services, accessions, and data
provided by the genebank are determined
quality, this should be acknowledged
feature following the original acquisition, rather than being
taken for granted. This will be true whether the sample
collection, exchange, or is indigenous or exotic.
Added value comes from attributes applied
incorporated into genebanks. Such value is desperately needed
within national and international ex situ and
tions of plant germplasm. However,
what extent can these
activities be undertaken when financial resources are limited
the most basic aspects
conservation or preservation?
ex situ centers
diversity must be able
effectively interact with legal, scientific, and commercial
partners to help enhance the value
their collections. For
example, agreements may be developed
ascertain the range
of molecular diversity for certain traits among accessions of
a particular species. The number of viable, unique samples
a collection increases the range of diversity that could be
sampled. Financial arrangements would be needed
the samples, develop the molecular analysis, and finally,
determine how results and the most promiSing germ plasm
would be handled.
S4-4 HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT
AND RESOURCE CONSERVATION
Development and expansion
crop genetic resource
programs over the past decade have demonstrated the need
relevant training. Well-functioning genebanks require
strong programs that link variation stored in conservation
collections with crop improvement (Goodman, 1990).
developing countries can more effectively
improving agronomic productivity
ported by concurrent increases in plant breeding and
development of seed industries to produce elite seed.
When training for plant genetic resources
the United Kingdom, with the moral support of F
and strong support from IBPGR after 1975, this provided
emerging genebank system with scientists trained
multi-diSCiplinary aspects of genetic resources. This
supplemented with numerous short courses organized
IBPGR, other IARCs, and some national programs.
ever, the volume of people trained has fallen short
A review of the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System
(NAS, 1991) suggested the need
develop a significant
international extension to its existing domestic mandate.
Also more "hands-on" internships at Universities and Cen-
ters are needed (Cohen et al., 1991).
genetic resource programs expand their scientific
technical base, and define their relation with other conserva-
tion efforts, new needs
conservation management emerge.
To address these needs and
form more integrated conser-
vation efforts, germplasm practitioners must apply disci-
population genetics, demography, field
collecting, seed storage, propagation, tissue culture, and
various maintenance strategies. New educational opportuni-
the Summer Institute for Genetic Resource
Conservation, provide key opportunities
diverse topics and acquaint germplasm professionals
their inter-relationships (McGuire, 1991).
The needs of both the genetic-resources workers and
user community are pertinent issues. First, the requirements
of managers of genetic resources programs are changing.
Whereas 20 yr ago, their work was largely for conservation
a service function
interact with nature conservation for conservation of
biodiversity, with forestry genetic resources requirements,
and others. Strategic national planning
linking global activities
specific crop genepool (Cohen
Second, the number of plant breeding graduate students
declining in parallel with the upsurge of interest
nology. Aside from the prebreeding or enhancement that
primitive and wild materials, the more tradi-
tional breeding requires a
15-yr development period.
Broader genetic enhancement programs will maximize
justify the use of germplasm collections.
a country, the use of modem crop cultivars can only
sustained through a well-planned plant breeding program and
the genebank manager and breeders. The
need for sustainability should not detract from this; there will
be no return
peasant agriculture except
possibly more environmentally sound. Plant breed-
ing aims might move somewhat from total use of monocul-
cultivar mixtures and inter-
cropping systems. This will require regional cooperation,
genebank managers must develop new skills
many past regional programs. The following
educational programs will be required
meet their needs:
2. Educating conservation biologists to recognize the needs
their colleagues dealing with genetic resources, and
for a certain number to be fully trained in curating and
managing genetic reserves as parts
the broader ecosys-
tem conservation and in conserving threatened species
3. Preparing biodiversity scientists to recognize the urgent
applied aspects so that crop, forest
can be described in terms
modem molecular and biochemical methods, and for
research to be strategic and applied rather than basic.
4. Training managers in research planning, monitoring,
fully collaborative programs to
maximize cost-effectiveness and efficiency. Curators
must become much more pro-active to address these
needs (Williams, 1985); they should collectively deter-
mine how worldwide cooperation and collaboration in
germplasm availability and use develop. There are im-
portant messages here for the Consultative Group on
International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) as it moves
to policies in this area and networking on specific crop
germplasm through IBPGR.
The training needs above are not being addressed fully,
and there does not appear to be a clear policy agreed upon by
all the international organizations involved. The
source manager begins where that
a policy maker leaves
al., 1990) but synergies between the two are
necessary to make technology effective, to cope with uncer-
tainty, and to choose and manage existing technologies.
Training in this area is still virtually non-existent.
been overplayed in
debates on plant genetic resources. Although these were
valuable for highlighting collecting needs in the past, there is
no longer justification for overemphasizing them. The his-
crops was instrumental in their diversifi-
cation, providing the foundation for crop development. In the
L.), early cultivars from
Canada were derived from cultivars from Poland, India,
Russia, and England (Knott, 1967) and not directly from
materials in the center
origin. Now the genepool
the Triticeae, a tribe
the grass family, is
and species are distributed over vast territories
difficult to understand why the rhetoric devel-
oped for and by developing countries rich in germplasm to
perceive the indigenous plant genetic material as a
biological treasure, except where high value industrial crops
had become economically strategic (Chang, 1992). The inter-
global genetic resource conservation centers
and the plant breeding community attest to the fact that area
origin has far less consequence than what and how the seed
is used, how much is available, its viability, and national
capabilities for storage and use (Cohen & Bertram, 1989).
Modem plant breeding programs are themselves becoming
diversity as they continually merge elite lines that
are geographically and genetically diverse (Baezinger &
Peterson, 1992). Rarely is any territory, defined by national
boundaries, self-sufficient in germplasm for continued crop
The key to overcoming the problems
population, continued problems
rural poverty, and the fact
that breeding new cultivars takes considerable time, will be
the ongoing availability
genetic resources to sustain crop
enhancement. Debates on sovereignty must not delay such
Other factors also are important. They relate to how well
genetic resource collections are managed in terms
quality, quantity, security in conservation, uniqueness, in-
ventory status. Limitations in
these areas, espe-
cially in collections involving international custodial respon-
sibilities, will affect the ready availability
It is not simply a question
mobilizing more funding.
There is a major moral responsibility to ensure that the
collections are "in order" and not littered with small samples
multiplication, and that they are adequately evalu-
ated and characterized. The constraints are known (Williams,
1989; Goodman, 1990) and there are some hopeful programs
in place to remove restrictions
some crop samples. A
program initiated by Agency for International Development
(A.LD.) and implemented by Centro Internacional de
Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo (CIMMYT) and
programs will regenerate essential accessions
can and Caribbean maize. Duplicate samples were placed
the National Seed Storage Laboratory in Ft. Collins, CO. The
program will regenerate approximately 3,700
critical maize accessions (Cohen, 1991).
In many cases, large-scale evaluations are limited by
resources. There is, therefore, clear responsibility to priori-
tize and transfer information among genebanks, and to ad-
dress specific short- and medium-term constraints to produc-
tion. The latter has been stressed by Srivastava and Damania
(1990) in relation to wheat and by Frankel and Brown (1984)
as a matter
principle. Unfortunately, however, it has not
been adequately empha'iized in relation to global food needs
the next 20 yr when institutional structures and implemen-
tation mechanisms become the main focus
(Keystone, 1991; von Hintum et al., 1991).
Borlaug (1989) summarized the needs for increased pro-
duction, economic policies to encourage adoption
technologies, and aggressive enthusiastic production cam-
paigns, but warned that the attitude
leaders, and the general public will be decisive in determining
whether we reach the food production target that will sustain
essential food supplies clearly must
the over-riding concern
setting priorities for further field
germ plasm and evaluation
materials to promote more rapid use. In part this conflicts
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