Minutes of the Maize Crop Germplasm Committee meeting

- December 5, 2001 - Chicago, IL -

Attendees: William Tracy (Chair), Peter Bretting, Ed Coe, Jim Coors, Bill Dolezal, Marlin Edwards, Candice Gardner, Major Goodman, Jim Hawk, Randall Holley, Von Kaster, David Mies, Mark Millard, Ron Phillips, Linda Pollack, Mary Polacco, Marty Sachs, Wilfredo Salhuana, Kay Simmons, Stephen Smith, Allan Stoner, Margaret Smith, Henry Shands, Suketoshi Taba, Neil Widstrom, David Willmot

Bill Tracy called the meeting to order at 1:00 p.m. and welcomed members and guests. The minutes of the December 6, 2000 meeting were reviewed and unanimously approved. Bill asked if the minutes could be posted on the web. Allan Stoner indicated that it is possible and that he would have them posted on the National Genetic Resources Program/National Plant Germplasm System web site under Crop Germplasm Committees.

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. As of October 1, 2001, the collection contained 17,702 accessions of Zea, a 4.3% increase over the previous year. New accessions included 631 previously held only at the NSSL, 9 Crop Science registrations, 19 from North Carolina State University destined for GEM program release, 26 old CI inbred lines from the ARS program at Columbia, MO, and 5 from Korea. There were 10,964 (61.9%) accessions available for distribution, an increase of 272 (2.5%) from the previous year. Due to the influx of accessions from the NSSL requiring regeneration, the available percentage of the entire collection decreased. During the past year 7,292 packets of seed (4,808 accessions) were distributed to 224 cooperators. The first GEM accession released by ARS was distributed 39 times in FY 2001.

Randy Holley asked Mark about the policy on the release of GEM material. Mark indicated that it had been left up to the GEM Technical Steering Committee. After an ensuing discussion, Randy moved and Jim Coors seconded that “ the best of the GEM accessions, that are not advanced to the yield trials, be used to form a synthetic and preserved”. The motion passed.

NCRPIS report- Candice Gardner reported that candidates for the GEM coordinator position would be interviewed in approximately two weeks and that additional physical facilities were being developed for the project. She also indicated that the National Academy of Science had provided funds to reproduce the “Races of Maize” publication and that various options were being considered on how to best accomplish the task. Candice commented that a recent CSREES review of the NC-7 project had been very positive, but concern was expressed about seed regeneration backlogs.

Mark Millard reported that he has been cooperating with CIMMYT on regeneration of accessions in order to increase the number of available accessions in both collections. Discussion ensued on the numbers of accessions in need of regeneration, available resources, technical problems, etc. Henry Shands asked about cooperation with Peru regarding the highland regeneration site they are reportedly building. Peter Bretting asked Mark if he anticipates a leveling off of the size of the Zea collection. Mark responded that it is likely to reach approximately 20,000 accessions.

Maize Genetics Stock Center- Marty Sachs distributed a report that summarized the Center’s 2001 activities. During the period, the Center received 292 requests for seed and distributed 3,557 samples. Marty indicated that he had a 9.1 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 discussed the Center’s involvement in the NSF “Maize Gene Discovery, Sequencing and Phenotypic Analysis” project. To date, the organized mutant hunt has generated 11,894 adult plant mutant stocks that have been sent to the Stock Center. All have been screened for ear and kernel mutants and families with ample seed supplies are being screened for additional traits.

National Program Staff report- Peter Bretting discussed the status of appropriations for the National Plant Germplasm System; the pending review of all ARS projects that deal with plant, microbial, and insect genetic resources, genomics, and genetic improvement (NP301); and the culmination of negotiations of the International Treaty on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (formerly known as the International Undertaking) in November 2001. Peter explained why the U.S. had abstained from voting on the Treaty and indicated that an MTA, to be developed, will be the key to how the treaty will work.

Kay Simons discussed the USDA Advisory Committee on Agriculture Biotechnology’s recent approval of a report on the Future of Plant Breeding Programs. She reported that CSREES is developing a plan to organize a workshop prior to the Nov 2002 ASA meetings to examine the nation’s public plant breeding capacity relative to national needs. The CGC expressed concern over the need for such a meeting, since exhaustive surveys, studies, and analyses have been conducted in recent years. It was the consensus of the CGC that the meeting would be unnecessary and nothing would be accomplished.

NSSL report - Henry Shands reported that the name of the National Seed Storage Laboratory had been changed to the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in order to better reflect the expanded mission of the unit. Henry provided a report that summarized the NPGS’s Zea accessions at Ames, Ft. Collins and Urbana and the distributions by order type during 2001. The report also compared the NPGS and CIMMYT collections. Henry discussed the possible implications of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Biosafety Protocol on the future ability of genebanks to distribute germplasm which might knowingly or unknowingly containing GMOs. The Protocol requires prior notification for transboundary movement of GMOs,

GEM report - Linda Pollak indicated that since the project had been throughly discussed at the cooperator’s meeting during the previous two days, she would not comment further unless there were questions. She stated that the project’s annual report was available on the GEM website.

Maize genomics and Maize DB - Ed Coe distributed a report that summarized the maize genomics projects and their status, Maize Genetics Executive Committee actions, and MaizeDB highlights during the past year. Mary Polacco briefly discussed the latter.

Maize germplasm and the genome project - Stephen Smith discussed an e-mail that he had sent to the Maize Genetics Executive Committee in November relative to the financial support available to the NPGS for germplasm conservation and evaluation. He indicated that although advances in sequencing technology and analytical methods offer unprecedented opportunities to understand the genetic control of agronomic traits, their use ultimately depends upon the availability of allelic diversity from a broad base of germplasm. He stressed that although the NPGS budget had benefitted from the American Seed Trade Association’s lobbying efforts, a persistent demonstration of support for genetic resource conservation from the maize genetics research community could further help remedy the NPGS funding shortfalls.

CIMMYT report - The status of the CIMMYT Maize Genetic Resources Unit’s germplasm regeneration and distribution activities was summarized in a report distributed by Suketoshi Taba. He reported that during 2000-2001, CIMMYT sent 1237 accessions to Ft. Collins for security backup. He also reported on CIMMYT’s collaboration with Latin American national collections to regenerate and conserve maize landraces. Suketoshi also discussed the unit’s research on the diversity of the Zapalote Chico race in Mexico.

Entomology report - Von Kaster reported that 2001 will be remembered for the unusual array of insect pests on corn. True armyworms were prevalent throughout the East and Midwest during most of the vegetative stages. In Illinois, migrating larval populations were characterized as being of ‘biblical proportions”. There were numerous reports of various obscure Lepidoptera feeding on early vegetative growth of corn in the Midwest . European corn borers, Southwestern corn borers, and corn rootworms returned to prominence during 2001. Von indicated that the Western Bean Cutworm was the pest most worth mentioning, since its range appears to be extending from Nebraska, Colorado, and Kansas into western Iowa.

Disease report - Bill Dolezal distributed a compilation of the incidence of corn diseases in North America during the 2001 growing season. Although many different diseases were reported in isolated geographic areas, overall, diseases were much less severe in 2001 that in 2000. Two new viruses, Maize Necrotic Streak and Maize Fine Streak, were identified and reported in Arizona and Georgia respectively.

New business and membership - Henry Shands suggested that the Committee remain alert to maize accessions in individual or institution working collections that should be incorporated into the NPGS. He indicated that he was attempting to determine what material from Dave Glover’s collection at Purdue should be maintained by the NPGS.

Peter Bretting discussed the value of the CGC reports to the ARS National Program Staff, and others, and suggested that the Committee look at the Maize report prepared in 1996 to determine if it needs to be updated.

Bill Tracy reported that Rex Bernardo had resigned from the Committee and asked whether he should be replaced. Bill indicated that he would assess the Committees membership.

Bill Tracy adjourned the meeting at 5:00 p.m.