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Improving conservation of forage genetic resources in the UK - GC0130

IGER Aberystwyth holds the only significant UK collection and one of the major European collections of forage genetic resources, currently amounting to 9132 accessions (seed samples) of 472 species, mainly of Lolium, Festuca, Dactylis and Trifolium. The infrastructure for the collection is of the highest international standard. However, a significant proportion of the collection is exposed to serious risk of loss, through senescence of old seed or through accidental destruction.
Objective: It is proposed to eliminate this risk for the grass species in the collection by establishing an off-site safety duplicate of a prioritised subset of accessions, rejuvenating or multiplying seed where appropriate.
National policy relevance: Grasslands form the backbone of the UK rural environment and economy, covering 70% of the UK. Farmers require sustainable productive grassland agriculture. The public requires amenity grasslands such as parks, golf courses, lawns and sports fields. The rural tourist industry relies on both agricultural and amenity grassland to attract tourists. Conservation of forage genetic resources is vital to underpin research, breeding and the restoration of grassland habitats. This project will help DEFRA fulfil its policy to support the conservation of genetic resources of current or potential value to the UK economy and environment.
International policy relevance: this project will help the UK fulfil its obligations as signatory to
the Convention on Biological Diversity (1) (specifically, article 9; previously a DETR responsibility) and to
the Global Plan of Action for the Conservation and Sustainable Utilization of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (2) (specifically, priority activities 5 and 6; previously a MAFF responsibility).
Intended use of results: The results will be recorded in the Aberystwyth Genetic Resources Information System (AGRIS) and will be used to improve both the conservation of forage genetic resources in the UK and its utilisation for the understanding, restoration and improvement of grassland in the UK countryside.
1: Measure the current germination rate of stored seed of a prioritised subset of accessions, currently numbering 2058, processing 700 accessions/year in years 1 to 3.
2: Regenerate seed of a prioritised subset of 500 accessions represented in the collection by seed of inadequate quantity or quality, starting with the lowest-quality accessions and processing 100 accessions / cycle in a series of five overlapping 2-year cycles over 6 years.
3: Establish a safety duplicate collection of a prioritised subset of between 500 and 1470 accessions at the Millennium Seed Bank, Wakehurst Place, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew.
The numbers of accessions to be processed relate to those given in table 1 (Section two subsection 8 “Scientific Context”) as follows:
Test germination rate for all accessions designated as high priority for conservation, i.e. in categories C-F;
Regenerate all category C accessions, including any additional accessions transferred from categories D-F, up to a maximum of 500; if the number of urgent regenerations is less than 500, make the total up to 500 by regenerating category D accessions.
Establish safety duplicates of all 500 accessions regenerated during the project, plus all category E and F accessions that pass the germination test.
Objective 2 is partly dependent on objective 1. Accessions will be regenerated (objective 2) as far as possible in order of increasing germination rate. Each year the choice of accessions to be regenerated that year will be made by analysing the results of germination tests (objective 1) available up to that time, together with expected germination rates (table 1 above) for accessions not yet tested. Thus, work for objectives 1 and 2 will continue in parallel, but the accuracy of prioritisation for objective 2 will improve as objective 1 progresses.
Objective 3 is fully dependent on objective 1. No safety duplicates can be prepared without a prior assessment of their quality.
Objective 3 is fully dependent on objective 2 for 500 accessions that need rejuvenation or multiplication before safety duplicates can be formed. Objective 3 is independent of objective 2 for up to 970 accessions (the precise number depending on the results of objective 1) that are represented in the collection by abundant high quality seed, and as such can be sub-sampled to create a safety duplicate without prior rejuvenation or multiplication.
The work for objective 3 will be streamed as appropriate. That is, safety duplicates for one batch of accessions will be formed after work under objective 1, and where necessary objective 2, is complete for that batch of accessions, but concurrently with objective 1 and 2 work for the next batch.
All three objectives are absolutely essential to the overall objective. A safety duplicate collection cannot be established without the confirmed existence of a sufficient quantity of high quality seeds.
No particular factors beyond those that can occur with any project: disasters, staff losses, and failures of equipment and third-party dependencies.
Third parties on which this project depends include (1) contractors for construction of additional isolation chambers to increase our annual throughput capacity for seed multiplication and (2) the Millennium Seed Bank. In both cases, alternatives are available and would not delay achievement of objectives.
All of the existing capital equipment required for the project is in good repair and failure is considered unlikely. IGER maintains an Institute Capital Fund, which is used to replace essential equipment when necessary, and a separate fund for rolling upgrades to computing equipment. We aim to replace equipment in a timely manner to avoid delaying achievement of objectives. The Institute Capital Fund is financed by an overhead charge to all projects (see “Capital Charge” item in section 20f below)
Project Documents
• Final Report : Improving conservation of forage genetic resources in the UK   (216k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2002

To: 2008

Cost: £178,392
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Institute of Grassland and Environment Research (IGER)
Genetic Conservation              
Plant Genetic Resources              
Plants and Animals