maize germplasm resources

Smith, Stephen stephen.smith at
Mon Nov 26 10:31:05 EST 2001

Dear Colleagues in Maize Genetics Research

Recent advances in sequencing technologies and analytical methods offer
unprecedented opportunities to better understand the genetic control of
important agronomic traits. But the extent to which these new capabilities
can be used to help promote sustainable advances in food and environmental
security depends upon the repertoire of allelic diversity that is available.
Conserving and evaluating a broad base of germplasm is an important
component of US and international agricultural research. But these are
activities that have been regularly under-resourced as documented by at
least two US governmental reports.

In the US, public funding of genomics is largely from NSF while funding of
germplasm conservation is from the USDA and other agencies.  New knowledge
and new capabilities to improve germplasm that are coming from the study of
genomics should remind us that divisions among sources of funding are
artificial in respect of how learning and the creation of better adapted
varieties depend upon genomics being applied to germplasm.

Could I ask you to raise awareness that providing sufficient resources for
the conservation and evaluation of plant genetic resources is an important
component of progressing knowledge and agronomic performance? Communicating
this message within the maize genetics community and more broadly within the
NSF, USDA, and industry will help establish an improved level of stewardship
such that a broad base of maize germplasm will be available as the tools are
developed to "read" that diversity. Without additional support for
conservation of germplasm there is a danger that many of those resources
will be lost, and with the loss of those resources go lost opportunities to
learn and to improve food, health and environmental security.

Thank you very much

Stephen Smith

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