Author Topic: OSSI facilitated germplasm genebank requests  (Read 618 times)

Andrew Barney

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OSSI facilitated germplasm genebank requests
« on: 2022-03-12, 09:14:44 PM »
At the suggestion of Jack Kloppenburg I am starting a new discussion about an emerging issue regarding Independent Plant Breeders and the increasing difficulty of obtaining rare / unique germplasm from publicly funded genebanks.

I tried asking these questions on the Q & A for the talk given by OSSI board member and Cornell University breeder Michael Mazourek last week about The Privatization of Public Seed Breeding. But sadly no questions from the audience were answered.  :(

I tried also asking about the OpenMTA and whether any genebanks were using it. Ironically the JIC is NOT using the OpenMTA despite praising it so highly. (https://www.jic.ac.uk/press-release/opening-the-way-for-biotech/). It seems similar in many ways to the OSSI pledge, but perhaps more conducive to academia and research than a simple pledge.

The emerging issue is that publicly funded U.S. based genebanks (and perhaps others) are increasingly discriminating against Independent Plant Breeders and anyone who is not currently associated within a university or academic setting. When those of us who are doing legitimate breeding request samples of seeds that cannot be found anywhere else we are now increasingly being automatically denied because we are being lumped in with "home gardeners".

I understand that there has been a major increase in requests places like the USDA ARS GRIN, Tomato Genetics Resource Center, and others have been receiving from home gardeners and I understand that it could be detrimental to send "free" seeds out to everyone who requests it. I really do understand that, but I do know from experience that they are discriminating against those not in academia or with a large corporation. For the rest of us if they do not see a verified organization or company name behind your request it is usually automatically denied.

The potential solution is for OSSI, the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, Organic Seed Alliance, and others to potentially step up and help be the backbone and the large institution that we need. If we can have these large communities behind us, perhaps they could request the rare germplasm on our behalf so we can be confident that we can get hold of the seeds we need for various projects.

Is anyone else facing such issues?

Would it be beneficial if OSSI (and others) stepped in to help?
« Last Edit: 2022-03-12, 09:19:50 PM by Andrew Barney »

William Schlegel

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Re: OSSI facilitated germplasm genebank requests
« Reply #1 on: 2022-03-12, 09:42:09 PM »
I agree that it would be nice if OSSI would help. When I was recently denied a request from TGRC for the reasons you stated I inquired, and they stated that I would need to have a current university affiliation or be a gene bank to request more seeds. Now I may someday go back to graduate school which would mean I could make requests then. However, I think as a community what we could do is start a gene bank. I think we need a gene bank for another really obvious reason. Every OSSI variety we develop should be in it. The disappearance of OSSI pledged varieties is a serious problem we need to address as a community.

This is how I think it should work:

When we pledge a variety: we send in a sample of breeder seed adequate to do three grow outs. That sample gets dried down and goes into the gene bank. When the variety disappears off the market any OSSI affiliated seed company can request one of the three grow out samples. Then they have to replace the sample in triplicate from their grow out and they are free to sell the remainder minus their own stock seed. In addition, I think it would make sense for the gene bank to occasionally be the distribution source of OSSI pledged material particularly to OSSI breeders who may want to incorporate OSSI breeding material into their own projects. That could be done simply by making any material in excess of three grow-out packets available to OSSI affiliated breeders.

Then: when OSSI breeders who have pledged at least one variety to OSSI (accepted by OSSI) need a particular accession from a gene bank they request that through OSSI who makes the actual request to the gene bank be it TGRC, USDA ARS GRIN, or others. The sample then goes into the OSSI gene bank, and a sub sample goes to the breeder who is responsible for both growing it out and sending replacement seed back to OSSI and for producing their own seed of that sample. Ideally also some volunteers such as seed company partners would do small grow-outs for some of the material.

Those of us who are currently maintaining various accessions we have already requested and received from USDA ARS-GRIN and TGRC etc. could also donate samples of their own grow outs of those accessions by accession name to the OSSI Gene-Bank. I think I could personally supply the OSSI Gene-Bank with a number of accessions I have grown out including many that Andrew sent me and then I grew out.

I think for OSSI there is another important step here. We have the ability (in theory) to pledge breeding material. We should combine germplasm into new forms. One logical way to do this is to make crosses with existing OSSI pledged material. For instance, if there is an important tomato accession for a particular trait in TGRC such as LA2329 which is an arthropod resistant strain of Solanum habrochaites, we could cross it with an OSSI tomato such as Big Hill HX-9 AND repledge it to OSSI as breeding material and send in a sample of say the F2 population to the OSSI gene bank. Having an open-source version of important breeding material or even finished open-source varieties that incorporate these traits should be an important end goal and to my thinking finished OSSI varieties are great germplasm for starting new projects as well! Breeding should never be completely finished!

There is one other small matter: some material is hard to maintain. How do we reproduce it? Do we always need to perfectly if the organization allows us to make requests from the other gene banks? In that vein there is at least one other potential partner organization that already functions as a gene bank. Seed Savers Exchange in Iowa. If SSE could partner with OSSI on the gene bank venture that could be advantageous.

There is an interim need and an interim solution as well. We need to grow out and share breeding material accessions with each other as well as OSSI pledged varieties that have become for whatever reason rare or are off the market.

I think Andrew, Joseph, and I have been sending each other tomato seeds now for around five years and that is one way to do this in the interim till we can organize.

One other way to do that for those of us who are able is to do a commercial grow out. Experimental Farm Network might be an ideal seed company partner to work with as part of that or in general towards this goal. If an accession is genuinely useful for breeding growing it out and offering, it commercially through EFN might be a good way to go. I say that but also my wife has started a mini-seed company so if I do any more grow outs, I will probably just have her sell them.
« Last Edit: 2022-03-12, 10:05:54 PM by William S. »
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Nicollas

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Re: OSSI facilitated germplasm genebank requests
« Reply #2 on: 2022-03-13, 12:04:15 AM »
Good discussion, thanks.

In my opinion the two points to be addressed are :

- How to get access to genebanks as freelance plant breeders
- How to ensure diffusion of good accessions or genes to the world

EFN is a good solution to the second point as it ships internationally and has accessions targeted to breeders (weird materials, grex, etc). I wish good luck to your wife's seed adventure William ! I hope she'll ship abroad too ;)

For the first point, maybe it is time to make some work on genebanks. Maybe using an org to question all curators about specific requirements for approving requests. Make a list of freelance friendly genebanks. Lobbying for better access for breeders. Create a proxy org to make requests on behalf of freelance plant breeders.



bill

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Re: OSSI facilitated germplasm genebank requests
« Reply #3 on: 2022-03-13, 01:03:50 AM »
I wish that more genebanks would just start charging a fee for their materials.  That would instantly cut down on the number of non-serious requests and also give them an additional source of funding so that they could staff up as appropriate.

Overall, it has been my experience that most genebanks will work with you if you show them that you are really doing work with the accessions and not just playing.  That is one of the major reasons why I document the accessions that I have requested.  It doesn't have to be anything fancy.  I think something as simple as a thread on this board where you describe your use of genebank accessions and report your results would be sufficient to get access much of the time.  The main hurdle is usually getting your first order accepted so that you have something to report on, but there ought to be enough commercially available varieties of most crops to get some experience, show some results, and then be able to credibly describe how access to the genebank would benefit your work.  A good alternative is to find someone in the community who already has access and ask them to make a request for you.  That is something that we could easily facilitate on this board.  We could have a sub where people can post requests and hopefully match up with someone who has access.  We could also potentially find a volunteer each year willing to make a mass request for the forum and then distribute the materials, which would reduce workload for the genebank.

I think the best approach would be to find a way to work with what already exists.  In the USA, I really think that the NPGS is already the genebank that we need.  It is public.  It is generally friendly to independent breeders as long as the resources aren't too scarce.  If there are other genebanks that refuse to work with independent breeders, maybe the solution is to get people who do have access to request those materials and then donate them to the NPGS so that they can be distributed more widely.  OSSI might be able to help as a bridge, but running a genebank is a big job, requiring facilities and manpower.  It is probably best not to reinvent the wheel.  Also, any genebank will have to be based in a particular regulatory region and it will not be easy to send many seeds between regions.  That means starting multiple genebanks.

Andrew Barney

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Re: OSSI facilitated germplasm genebank requests
« Reply #4 on: 2022-03-13, 10:40:29 AM »
I wish that more genebanks would just start charging a fee for their materials.  That would instantly cut down on the number of non-serious requests and also give them an additional source of funding so that they could staff up as appropriate.

This is already the case for many non-U.S.A. based genebanks such as IPK Gatersleben in Germany and the John Innes Center in the UK. Why this hasn't caught on in the U.S. is beyond me. But I have been known to donate up to $50 for important projects after I received materials because I wanted to make sure they had the funding to keep going and let them know i was grateful.

My latest request was denied because I took off Colorado State University since i am no longer a student there. I believe it was an automatic denial because I had no organization listed.

Nicollas

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Re: OSSI facilitated germplasm genebank requests
« Reply #5 on: 2022-03-13, 12:10:09 PM »
Yes IPK is 20€ + 2€ by accession (+ costs for phyto certificate i guess)

Steph S

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Re: OSSI facilitated germplasm genebank requests
« Reply #6 on: 2022-03-13, 12:49:38 PM »
This is an important discussion to have - thank you for bringing it up.

Another suggestion as well, is that for germplasm that is important to more than one of us, that we could grow out and distribute seed to other members here.

The safest place for germplasm is to have it widely grown.  It worries me that rare and important accessions should need a rescue from the obscurity of inaccessible banks.  It is already quite a job to identify the material that you need to trial.   In many cases there are simply lists of numbered accessions without descriptions.  Some of them can be found in the literature if you are dogged enough - but what then.   It is not enough to know what you want, if you don't have the necessary 'title' to process a request.

William Schlegel

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Re: OSSI facilitated germplasm genebank requests
« Reply #7 on: 2022-03-13, 01:44:32 PM »
I recently read Craig LeHouillier's tomato book and when SSE was a young org, they had to request many of the accessions from the USDA ARS-GRIN system. So in some ways things have gotten a lot better. I had a look around though after my recent request was denied and I think we amateur breeders don't have an alternative source for Solanum pimpinillifolium diversity. The accessions / varieties on the market aren't adequate even though there are several named varieties available the species has tremendous diversity and it isn't visible diversity.
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Diane Whitehead

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Re: OSSI facilitated germplasm genebank requests
« Reply #8 on: 2022-03-13, 06:42:37 PM »
I just checked the Canadian gene bank and they have only two Solanum pimpinellifolium L.      

 PI 126932   and   TARGINNIE RED

Lots of peas, though, most have numbers or Russian-sounding names.
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