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Safeguarding the National Fruit Collection - Desk Study - GC0137STF

The National Fruit Collections, which are owned by Defra, conserve irreplaceable genetic diversity and genotypes of temperate fruit species. Management strategies for this resource must make long term safety of the collections the highest priority. To this end, the suitability of all possible storage methods for fruit germplasm will be investigated. One of the main activities at the Collections is characterisation of the conserved materials, in order to help users select suitable materials and to understand the distribution of variation. Until now only morphological and phonological characters have been scored, and these methods have severe limitations. This project will consider the possible applications of molecular techniques in characterising and managing the collections.Conserving biological diversity is a major international objective because of increasing concern over environmental degradation and genetic erosion. Plant genetic resources must be protected to help achieve long term food security; plant breeders require access to genetic material such that new varieties can be bred in response to any changes in climate, agricultural practices, market requirements, plant diseases and plant pests. The UK government strongly supports this objective, at a national and international level, through a number of mechanisms: ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which commits it to the development of a national strategy for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, membership of the FAO commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and participation in the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute's European Co-operative Programme for Genetic Resources. It has undertaken accordingly to make contributions in kind.Defra's programme (GC01) on the Ex-situ conservation of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture aims to contribute to the achievement of the UK's international commitments to develop national strategies for the ex-situ conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. Maintenance and curation of the Defra UK National Fruit Collections are funded under this programme (project codes GC0127STF and GC0128STF). Fruit cultivars must be propagated asexually to maintain the genotype of interest; therefore accessions are maintained as trees, bushes or vines and are propagated by grafting rather than being stored as seed like the other national plant genetic resource collections. The collections contain accessions of Malus, Pyrus, Prunus, Ribes, Corylus, Mespilus, Cydonia and Vitis cultivars covering 12.35 hectares at Brogdale, near Faversham in Kent. Of the genera included, Malus is most fully represented with 2213 accessions of culinary, dessert, cider and ornamental cultivars; the largest collection of named apple varieties on a single site in the world.The objectives of the National Fruit Collections are to conserve the genetic diversity present in cultivated temperate fruit genera, in particular that which has been grown in or originated in the UK, or is of actual or potential value to horticulture in the UK, and to facilitate the supply of fruit germplasm samples to scientific researchers, commercial interests and the public. The larger Collections (apple, pear, plum, cherry, currant and gooseberry) contain accessions from most countries in which these genera are cultivated. It is therefore likely that the genetic diversity present in the cultivated populations of these crops is well represented in the Collections. However, until now genetic diversity present in the Collections has only been indirectly estimated through morphological comparisons. Since the accessions are maintained as trees, bushes or vines, their morphological characteristics may be recorded readily. Use of molecular characterisation techniques would allow more direct estimates of diversity to be made and could increase the efficiency of the Collections by identifying genetically similar varieties. In addition, these techniques could be used to identify accessions with unique genes.Samples of propagating wood, leaves, fruit and pollen from the Collections are made available to bona fide scientists around the world. The Collections are also open to the public through tours organised by Brogdale Horticultural Trust. Propagating wood may be obtained by members of the public e.g. farmers and there are many examples of orchards being created using locally appropriate varieties from the National Fruit Collections. However, the cost of maintaining the Collections is high compared to the other national plant genetic resource collections, which are stored as seed. In addition the collections are at risk of attack by pathogens, extreme environmental conditions, vandalism and predicted climate change. This project will investigate alternative storage methods, and consider their implications on use of the Collections.
The study will have two outputs:

1. A review of storage methods available for conserving temperate fruit cultivars and a discussion of the applicability of these methods to the UK National Fruit Collections. If appropriate, alternatives to the existing field collections will be proposed with full discussion of any implications on long term security of the collections, availability of samples to users and costs.

2. A review of methods that may be used to characterise genetic diversity within the UK National Fruit Collections. Recommendations will be made on the use of these methods to improve curation of the collections, in particular the identification of duplicate accessions, identification of genetically distant accessions and characterisation of the structure of diversity within the collections.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Safeguarding the National Fruit Collection - Desk Study   (532k)
• Final Report - Annex : Safeguarding the National Fruit Collection - annex   (189k)
• Final Report - Annex : Safeguarding the National Fruit Collection -Bibliography   (99k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2005

To: 2005

Cost: £18,477
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Imperial College, Wye Campus
Climate Change              
Natural Resource Use              
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Fields of Study
Plant Genetics