Minutes of the Woody Landscape Plants CGC Meeting

August 23-24, 2007
Portland, Oregon

The Woody Landscape Plants Crop Germplasm Committee (WLPCGC) held its annual meeting in conjunction with the Farwest Show, the Oregon Nursery Association’s (ONA) annual nursery and greenhouse industry trade show, in Portland, Oregon.  The ONA graciously provided meeting space at the trade show for our committee.  A pre-meeting tour was held on August 22 and included stops at the Woody Landscape Plant Development Center in Aurora, the National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, and Heritage Seedlings wholesale nursery in Salem.

The meeting was called to order at 8:15 am on Thursday, August 23, 2007.  Dr. Sandy Reed, research geneticist with the U.S. National Arboretum, USDA-ARS, McMinnville, Tenn., presided over the meeting as committee chair.

In attendance: Pam Allenstein, Eric Anderson, Tomas Ayala-Silva, Jim Berry, Peter Bretting, Ned Garvey, Kim Hummer, Mark Krautmann, Brian Maynard, Robert Mazalewski, Alan Meerow, Richard Olsen (recording minutes), Harold Pellet, Joseph Postman, Cecil Pounders, Sandy Reed, Jim Robbins, Mark Widrlechner, Sue Wiegrefe, Alan Whittemore, and Gail Wisler.

Minutes of the 2006 meeting held in McMinnville, Tenn. were distributed prior to the meeting for review and discussion.  Pam Allenstein motioned to forego reading the minutes from last year and approve them.  The motion was seconded by Alan Whittemore and the committee voted all in favor of approving the minutes [ACTION ITEM].

Crop Status Report:

Mark Widrlechner reported that the revision to the 2002 Crop Status Report and Recommendations has been postponed to 2008 and he will review with members of committee who volunteered to assist on specific portions [ACTION ITEM from 2006].

Germplasm Proposals:

The six top proposals went out for review to the committee, and Dr. Mark Brand’s proposal (Aronia) was selected for funding.  The 2008 call-for-proposals were sent out in July.  Sandy asked if there were any suggestions for changes to the proposal formats, for example whether top-ranked grants from previous years be recommended for resubmission or should we be returning comments to the grant applicants.  Discussion centered on providing sample grants for applicants to review, including what National Program Staff (NPS) thought were well-written proposals.  It was noted that the proposals are not elaborate and most poor rankings are due to applicants not following directions.  It was suggested that an example would aid in interpretation of the directions in the instructions to applicants.  It was also noted that the hyperlinks in the instructions were out of date and Sandy Reed agreed to update the links [ACTION ITEM].

The committee agreed, via email, to support the germplasm exchange proposal “Expedition in Scotland to Exchange Tropical Conifer Germplasm for Crop Improvement” submitted by Chad Husby of the Montgomery Botanical Center, Miami, Florida, and Ron Determann of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Atlanta, Georgia.  The committee agreed that it was an excellent collaboration between several respected institutions and would yield important new accessions of tropical conifers to North American botanical collections.

Prior to the meeting, Dr. Rajeev Arora and Dr. Stephen Krebs’ final progress report was submitted via email regarding their WLPCGC funded germplasm evaluation project regarding floral bud hardiness of deciduous azaleas.  Accessions used in the research are to be sent to the U.S. National Arboretum and data uploaded to GRIN in the near future.  Three publications resulted from this work.

Progress Reports: 

(Written reports were submitted to the committee chair and distributed via email prior to the meeting for review.  Members recapped those reports here.  Written reports will be posted on the CGC website.)

Peter Bretting, National Program Staff, Beltsville, Maryland – see written report.  A number of personnel changes were made around the country in NPS, including the addition of Dr. Gail Wisler (present), the new NP leader for horticulture and sugar crops. The NPGS distributed 159,266 accessions in 2006, setting an annual record.  In general, the repositories are increasing germplasm and distributions, which increases strain due to budgets constraints and rising operation costs.  The 2008 budget for ARS is uncertain.  Research projects in USDA-ARS that fall under National Program 301, which encompasses germplasm and genetic resources, began its first five-year cycle review, which will be completed in 2008.

Kim Hummer and Joseph Postman, National Clonal Germplasm Repository, Corvallis, Oregon – PowerPoint presentation summarizing the research efforts and germplasm collections at Corvallis, namely temperate fruit and nut crops (e.g. Corylus, Pyrus, Humulus, Vaccinium, Ribes, Rubus, Fragaria, Mentha, etc.) and highlighted the ornamental selections of the genera that they maintain.  Joseph Postman shared the 2004 report compiled by Paul Meyer, Morris Arboretum, on their joint collecting effort in Armenia and Georgia for ornamentals and small fruits.

Alan Meerow and Tomas Ayala-Silva, National Clonal Germplasm Repository, Miami, Florida – see written report. Significant research accomplished in characterizing genetic diversity in ornamental tropical genera, including Cocos, Zamia, and Plumeria. New releases include Polygala myrtifolia ‘Chapman Field’, Cocos nucifera ‘Niu Leka’, Tecoma guarume ‘Miami Sunrise’, ‘Miami Sunset’, and ‘Tangelo’.  The new science building is nearing completion which will house, among other programs, the plant science/germplasm scientists at Miami.

Mark Widrlechner, North Central Plant Introduction Station, Ames, Iowa – see written report.  Significant discussion occurred on the development of a coordinated plan for ex situ conservation of North American Fraxinus threatened by the emerald ash borer.  The plan included collection of Chinese Fraxinus for investigating host-plant resistance and preserving representative gene pools of North American Fraxinus species.  Regeneration of other ornamental genera continued in earnest, with emphasis on shrub-cages for avoiding cross-pollination in woody and herbaceous genera.  Research continues on developing risk assessment models for naturalization of non-native woody plants in the Midwest, including the addition of a graduate student in 2008.

Richard Olsen (presenting for Kevin Conrad), Woody Landscape Plant Crop Germplasm Repository, Beltsville, Maryland – see written report by Kevin Conrad. The repository is still struggling to complete the move from the Glenn Dale site, with no irrigation or heat for the three unfinished “new” poly-houses.  The WLPCGR is collaborating with the Plant Exchange Office and scientists in Azerbaijan and Georgia on targeted collecting of ornamental genera in these countries.  There is continued collaboration with Russian scientists and the WLPCGR centered on botanical explorations of the Russian Far East and Sakhalin Island, resulting in 90 new accessions and commitments for another trip in 2008.  New emphasis on collecting wild collected North American species to bolster the repository’s collection of these representative of ornamental genera, including Morus rubra, Celastras scandens, Persea palustris and P. borbonia, Fraxinus spp., Stewartia spp., and Actaea racemosa (in conjunction with Frostburg State University, Maryland).

Alan Whittemore, U.S. National Arboretum herbarium, Washington, D.C. – see written report.  Personnel changes in Beltsville ultimately led to the addition of new staff at the USNA for taxonomy.  Dr. Joseph Kirkbride, research scientist, will be working on Catalpa and Chionanthus taxonomy, as well as continuing management of the seed herbarium which is being transferred from Beltsville to the USNA.  Dr. Robert Webster, agrostologist, will be working on plant databases.  Personnel changes limited work in the herbarium, but work on vouchering important ornamental plant collections continued, as well as databasing type and standard collections, and adding records to the USNA database, BG-BASE.

Pam Allenstein, North American Plant Collections Consortium, American Public Gardens Association, Wilmington, Delaware – see written report.  The number of national collections increased with the recent approval for Stewartia (Arnold Arboretum), Sarracenia (Atlanta Bot. Garden), Geranium (Chicago Bot. Garden), and the multi-site Quercus collection (14 different gardens and arboreta).  Five more applications are pending, including Rosa, Cycadales, Heaths and Heathers, and Arecaceae.  Interest in other multi-site collections includes the pending application for Acer and the aforementioned Arecaceae.  Continued implementation of “Plant CollectionsTM – A Community Solution” for integrating collections information from various different database formats at botanical institutions is entering its third year with strong financial support.  Various workshops hosted by APGA and NAPCC for training and education of curators have or being held in 2007.

Ned Garvey, National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland – see written report.  Plant Exchange Office (PEO) distributed over 31,000 items to 60 countries in FY 2006 and is set to reach 60,000 in 2007.  Plant Introduction (PI) numbers will no longer be automatically given to new accessions, rather, curators of germplasm must evaluate passport data and uniqueness before requesting a PI number from Mark Bohning at the National Genetic Resources Program (NGRP).  More than a dozen crops were targeted for plant exploration trips around the world in 2006, including woody ornamentals and small fruits in the Caucasus and Central Asia countries.  In 2007, Fraxinus germplasm will be collected in China, among other planned exploration trips.  Two important meetings regarding the Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) occurred in 2006, with comments and recommendations made regarding how GRIN should handle molecular data, and how the public web interface and software for GRIN can be adjusted to better fit users’ needs.  Responsibilities for the quarantine indexing and distribution of prohibited genera germplasm that were performed by the USDA-ARS, Plant Germplasm Quarantine Office (PGQO) in Beltsville, MD were transferred to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service-Plant Health Programs (APHIS-PHP).  Three scientists from PGQO and their support staff have established the Plant Disease Research Unit within NGRL (NGRL-PDRU).  The mission of NGRL-PDRU is to investigate pathogens and diseases of quarantine significance that occur in clonal plant germplasm that must enter the US through federal quarantine programs.

Issues Discussed by Committee:

Action items from 2006 minutes:  Jim Robbins commented that action items from the 2006 minutes were not completed, including writing articles to inform the industry on the existence and importance of the repositories. Jim agreed to head a sub-committee of M. Krautmann, K. Hummer, M. Widrlechner, Sandy Reed, and Richard Olsen on writing an article [ACTION ITEM].

WLPCGR:  Discussion ensued on why the repository move is being hampered by lack of support, both administrative and financially.  Pam Allenstein asked what happened to the sub-committee report on the WLPCGR move.  Mark Widrlechner stated that the report was sent to Mark Roh, lead scientist for the repository and germplasm unit of the Floral and Nursery Plant Research Unit at the U.S. National Arboretum, and no comments returned.  A request was made by Harold Pellet, and the committee agreed, that a follow-up from Kevin Conrad was needed for a more detailed status report on the repository including a list of priorities for the immediate future.  This would enable the committee to follow-up with the appropriate parties to see what was being done to ensure that the WLPCGR is a functioning repository [ACTION ITEM].  Due to the location of the WLPCGR, it was suggested that the U.S. National Arboretum website house information on the WLPCGC.

Stakeholder awareness of repositories:  Mark Krautmann commented that not enough was being done to make the stakeholders, in particularly the nursery industry, aware of the germplasm repositories, both the importance and usefulness of the collections, but also the current fiscal constraints.  He posed the question of what does the WLPCGC need from the industry, what sort of representation is actually needed?  This needs to be discussed so as to answer the question of why industry members are needed on the committee.  Mark invited Oregon nursery professionals to the committee meeting on Friday, Aug. 24th to introduce them to the committee, its members, and functions of the repositories.
GRIN interface:  Brian Maynard noted that currently, identifying curators of germplasm collections in GRIN is difficult, and is ironic in light of the need for applicants for germplasm grants to be in contact with the curators.  Mark Widrlechner commented that no link exists between PI numbers from a GRIN search and the crops curator.  Pam Allenstein suggested a single web page listing the curators, with hyperlinks to respective clonal repositories [ACTION ITEM].  To further increase “user-friendliness” of GRIN, it was suggested that a “pop-up” or “hot-link” be attached to GRIN webpages that users can click to quickly find out what GRIN is, how it works, and how to use GRIN.  Mention was made of a GRIN tutorial that might be made available through this link to guide people through GRIN [ACTION ITEM].  Jim Berry speculated that less than 1% of the nursery industry is aware that GRIN exists.

Membership:  The committee lost five members in 2007: Margaret Pooler is stepping aside as Richard Olsen came on board last year as an additional USNA representative; B. Irish, Rick Lewandowski, and Robert Schutzki all withdrew.

Shawn Belt, representative from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), withdrew, but it was noted by Peter Bretting that the NRCS is required to have a representative, and is looking into this [ACTION ITEM].
New members are Robert Mazalewski (Univ. of Calif., Davis), Michael Melendrez (Trees that Please, Los Lunas, New Mexico) and Kunso Kim (Morton Arboretum).

Jim Berry, of J. Berry Nursery, returned to active duty with the committee upon completing service to other industry commitments.

It was suggested that Michael Dosmann, curator of the Arnold Arboretum, be invited to join.  Mark Widrlechner agreed to contact Michael about joining the committee.

2008 Meeting:

It was recommended and passed that the next meeting be held in Beltsville, Maryland at the USDA-ARS Beltsville Area Research Center (BARC).  The location would facilitate an on-site review of the WLPCGR and the NCRS plant material center and engage the BARC and U.S. National Arboretum administration.  Topics to be discussed further should include an overview of the GRIN system by GRIN scientists, overview of current APHIS regulations by APHIS staff, and integration of U.S. National Arboretum plant records with GRIN.

Meeting was adjourned at 12 noon, Friday, August 24.

Minutes recorded and prepared by Richard Olsen, in lieu of absent secretary J. Griffin.