Minutes of the Maize Crop Germplasm Committee meeting

December 11, 2002 - Chicago, IL


William Tracy (Chair), Mike Blanco, Mark Bohning, Peter Bretting, Marcelo Carena, Ed Coe, Jim Coors, Bill Dolezal, Marlin Edwards, Mary Eubanks, Candice Gardner, Major Goodman, Jim Hawk, Randall Holley, Joseph Hudyncia, Von Kaster, Matthew Krakowsky, Leslie Lewis, Mark Millard, Linda Pollack, Mary Polacco, Marty Sachs, Wilfredo Salhuana, Kay Simmons, Henry Shands, Janice Strachan, Cliff Weil, David Willmot

Bill Tracy called the meeting to order at 1:00 p.m. and welcomed members and guests. The minutes of the December 5, 2001 meeting were reviewed and unanimously approved. Bill indicated that the minutes of the Maize CGC are now posted on the National Genetic Resources Program/National Plant Germplasm System web site under Maize Crop Germplasm Committee.

Zea Curatorial Activities

Mark Millard distributed the curator’s report and discussed several highlights of the past years activities relevant to the NPGS maize collection maintained at the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station in Ames, IA. As of October 31, 2002 the collection contained 18,049 accessions of which 63.4% are available for distribution and 74% are backed up at NSSL. There were 327 new accessions received from October 1, 2001 through September 30, 2002. These included 120 accessions from CIMMYT, 38 inbred lines from Purdue, 5 PVP accessions with expired certificates, 7 CSR accessions and 48 Brazilian lines. During the past year 7,243 packets of seed representing 3,969 accessions were distributed to 282 cooperators. In fiscal 2002, 3,959 germination tests were also performed. The NAS-NRC Races of Maize bulletins have been scanned in Adobe Acrobat PDF format and are available on CD. The first molecular data for maize in GRIN (Isozyme data taken at NC State on 157 landraces from Mexico) was loaded in 2002. Additional isozyme data along with SSR data will be loaded over the next year. The maize disease resistance-screening program continued in 2002. There were 2500 accessions distributed to 3 private and 2 public cooperators. The imaging of accessions continued at a rapid pace. The eventual goal is to have one kernel, one ear cross section and 1 ear longitudinal image per accession.


Candice Gardner reported that a new digital imaging room, a new archive room and new dryers have been added to the facilities at the station. She then distributed a report and led a discussion on the objectives, obstacles and future opportunities for the U.S. maize collection. Some of the issues discussed included additional curatorial and technical support, obtain additional molecular marker data, pollen preservation and more efficient screening methods for quality and other high value traits. Candice then asked the CGC to review the report and indicated she would welcome any comments or ideas.

Maize Genetics Stock Center

Marty Sachs distributed a report that summarized the Center’s 2002 activities. During the period, the Center received 315 requests for seed and distributed 14,765 samples. This includes one large request of 9,766 packets for a collaborator on the Maize Gene Discovery Project. Marty indicated that he had a 10.5 acre nursery in Illinois and a 0.5 acre winter nursery in Puerto Rico and that overall the growing conditions were excellent for both. The written report detailed several categories of stocks grown. Marty then discussed the Center’s involvement in the NSF “Maize Gene Discovery, Sequencing and Phenotypic Analysis” project. The center received approximately 20,000 stocks over the last year bringing the total number of samples the project has generated to 31,163 stocks. All have been screened for ear and kernel mutants and families with ample seed supplies are being screened for additional traits. The center received a budget increase from USDA-ARS in FY2002 and they are in the process of hiring an Information Technology Specialist and an individual to handle the new Plant Genome stocks.

National Program Staff report

Peter Bretting reported on national and international issues related to plant genetic resources. The total increase in funding for the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS) in FY02 was approximately 3.6 million dollars which was spread across 17 sites. The increase was again attributed to the ASTA initiative which started in 1998. A new review process of all ARS projects that deal with plant, microbial, and insect genetic resources, genomics, and genetic improvement (NP301) will be completed by the end of 2003. Peter then discussed the negotiations regarding the International Treaty on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. The U.S. has signed the treaty but it has not been ratified by the Senate. A standard MTA for the treaty still needs to be developed and this will be the key to how the treaty will work. Crops not covered by the treaty will fall under the rules of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

A discussion was then held on the CIMMYT MTA for non-designated material held in their genebank and the general Canadian MTA. A motion was proposed by Randy Holley that ‘The Maize Crop Germplasm Committee expresses concern over the CIMMYT MTA for non-designated germplasm which they feel will impede the flow and usage of that material’. The motion was seconded by Marty Sachs and passed unanimously. A subcommittee will be appointed by the chair to review these MTA’s.

Kay Simons reported that two new USDA programs related to maize have been established in Raleigh, NC and Ames, IA and that the position for a maize geneticist in Tifton, GA to replace Neil Widstrom will be announced. in the next month.

GEM Report

Mike Blanco distributed the 2002 Annual Report on GEM and highlighted the major accomplishments. Mike was hired in February 2002 as the GEM coordinator and Geneticist. A cold storage facility at Ames, IA was completed in April 2002 which will house the GEM germplasm lines. Six new cooperators (3 private and 3 public) were added and 6 public cooperators were supported in 2002 by the GEM program. All data on GEM through 2001 has been placed on the GEM web page and the 2002 data will be uploaded shortly.

Action Items

Several action items had been identified by the CGC throughout the year and were discussed in detail at the meeting.

1.) Evaluation Needs

Randy Holley and Linda Pollak led a discussion on evaluation needs for maize germplasm. A lot of information exists on the maize collection from scientists all over the world which has not been entered into the NPGS database. It would be very useful to pull this information together and incorporate it into the NPGS before the scientists retire or move to other positions. A discussion was then held on the best way to accomplish this task. Several suggestions were offered including USDA interns, graduate students or a retired scientist from the U.S. or abroad. Randy Holley moved to add a recommendation to the Maize CGC Report for the NPGS to make an effort to pull together all the existing information on the maize collections and incorporate it into the database. Wilfreda Salhuana seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. A subcommittee consisting of Randy Holley, Bill Tracy, Wilfreda Salhuana, Candice Gardner, and Henry Shands was appointed to follow up on this motion and report back to the CGC.

2.) Gaps in the Collections

A discussion was held on maize collections that exist in the U.S. and throughout the world that should be reviewed to determine if unique important lines should be incorporated into the NPGS. Major Goodman indicated that inbred lines developed by private companies many years ago have historical importance but are no longer used by the companies and should be put in the NPGS collection. A letter will be developed by Major, the CGC and possibly Don Duvik to address this issue. Several U.S. breeders have recently retired and material from their programs should be reviewed. Some of these include Arnel Hallauer, Neil Widstrom, Bob Lambert, The Kansas program and the Pennsylvania program. Wilfredo Salhuana also indicated that some international collections need to be looked at including Guatemala (Highland accessions) and the island of Dominique. The CGC needs to keep track of these collections and keep the curator informed of when a program is closed or a breeder retires. The discussion then turned to the type collections of the races of maize and whether all of this material is in the NPGS. Wilfredo Salhuana moved that all of the type collections of the races of maize should be incorporated into the NPGS maize collection maintained in Ames, IA. Randy Holley seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. The CGC also recommended that as a first step the type collection maintained by Major Goodman should be incorporated into the NPGS and after that the curator should start looking at other countries collections.

3.) Core Subsets

A discussion was held on the need to develop additional core subsets for the NPGS maize collection. The general consensus of the group was that additional information needs to be obtained on the collection before such subsets could be determined. Some of the most important data would be what the flowering data is on the material in the U.S. and the winter nursery and does the material set seed in the U.S. and winter nursery. It was also noted that better software on the GRIN public web pages such as spreadsheets and more sorting options would be very useful in analyzing the data.

4.) Support for Public Maize Breeding

A brief discussion was held on the need to increase the support of public plant breeding programs. It was noted that the NPGS budget has increased significantly over the last 5 years and that CSREES would like to double the amount of funding for plant breeding. CSREES will also now consider grants which have plant breeding as a component.

5.) GEM

Linda Pollak asked if the GEM project was meeting the needs of the entire maize community. In general the committee thought that it was although they indicated that a consensus of how to handle the synthetics was still needed.

Maize genomics and Maize DB

Ed Coe distributed a report that summarized the maize genomics projects and their status and MaizeDB highlights during the past year. Mary Polacco briefly discussed the latter. One item that needs to be addressed is to develop better links between GRIN and MaizeDB. Mark Bohning will work with Mark Millard, Ed Coe and Mary Polacco to address this issue.

Entomology report

Von Kaster reported that despite widely varying weather conditions, insect problems during 2002 were typical in the eastern U.S. and atypical in the west. European corn borers continued to increase in most of the U.S. except in the east where their populations were described as “anemic”. Corn rootworms remained prevalent in 2002. Although it is anticipated that the use of transgenic hybrids will provide resistance to corn rootworms, regulatory approval is still pending. The western bean cutworm was again a problem in western IA and southwest MN, well outside its normal range. As discussed last year, there has been very little research on this pest as it relates to plant resistance. Grasshoppers were also very problematic in the western corn growing areas including western Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado.

Disease Report

Bill Dolezal distributed a report on the incidence of corn diseases in North America during the 2002 growing season. Overall corn disease incidence was much lower than in 2000 and 2001. Drought conditions in the middle to later growing seasons in parts of the Corn Belt led to lighter incidence and severity of foliar diseases. University and industry representatives have been discussing whether new species of Pythium or Fusarium causing dampening off have increased since the seed industry has switched from the use of Captan to Maxim fungicides. They have also speculated on the possibility of Pythium developing resistance to metylaxyl. While no proof has yet been shown, the situation will be closely monitored in 2003.


Henry Shands reported on the current status of the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NCGRP). Henry discussed the efforts between the NCGRP, CIMMYT and Ames, IA to determine what accessions exist in each collection and to consolidate the data between these collections. Henry then distributed and discussed a report from Suketoshi Taba who was unable to attend the meeting. Approximately 16,000 CIMMYT accessions have now been sent to the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation (NCGRP) in Ft. Collins for security backup. CIMMYT also continues to collaborate with Latin American national collections to regenerate and conserve maize landraces. Suketashi visited 8 countries in March (Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil) to discuss which accessions were conserved at CIMMYT and the NCGRP, future work on the regeneration project, regeneration of the Goodman collection and on-farm in situ conservation. The CIMMYT core collection consists of 7,762 accessions with some of the lines evaluated in 2-4 locations. A CD-ROM of all the core subset data will be available in 2003. Matt Krakowsky then reported on the current efforts of the CIMMYT maize pre-breeding program.


Bill Tracy reported that Neil Widstrom had resigned from the Committee and asked whether he should be replaced. Several possibilities for a replacement were suggested and Bill will follow up on who should be asked to join the committee. Bill will send out a letter to Neil indicating the CGCs appreciation for his many years of service.

Bill Tracy adjourned the meeting at 5:15 p.m.