Plant Genetic Resources
The North Central U.S. is a major producer of crops important to food, animal feed, fiber, biofuels, and biochemical products, making the region crucial to global food security, national energy security, and economic security. The region’s ability to sustain production and respond to challenges and changing societal needs relies on genetic diversity. Genetic diversity makes plant populations less vulnerable to widespread damage from pests, diseases and environmental stresses. Diverse plant genetic materials are also essential to help scientists breed new crop varieties; produce biofuels; develop nutritional, pharmaceutical and medical products; and conduct basic plant research. Plant genetic resource collections are vital because they systematically acquire, store, propagate, and distribute plant tissues, seeds, and other gene-containing materials. Conserving genetic material is especially important for plants that can no longer be obtained from their native environments due to changes in land use or policies. Because of the varied environments and needs in the North Central region and the range of research interests and expertise, managing plant genetic resources must be a well-coordinated multistate and multidisciplinary effort, and these resources must be properly classified, well-described, easily accessible, and routinely evaluated for quality.