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ICONFORS
Improving germplasm conservating methods for perennial European forage species

There is an urgent need to regenerate seed stocks of conserved germplasm of European forage grasses and legumes, but a lack of knowledge has prevented development of an agreed economically and genetically effective protocol. This project will obtain the knowledge required and will use it to establish such a protocol. Using a multidisciplinary approach and novel technologies, the partnership will undertake a comprehensive assessment of the genetic and economic impacts of the major alternative options. It will develop a cost-benefit model that will integrate all experimental results to identify the most appropriate options. It will use the model to address the possibility of tailoring the seed multiplication protocol to suit different environments and economic constraints, and will draft a plan to optimise conservation at the European level, based on appropriate sharing of responsibilities between European organisations.

Objectives
Poor conservation of plant germplasm collections has been highlighted as a global problem. Within Europe, nearly 100 000 forage accessions are conserved in gene banks for a range of possible uses such as plant breeding, reconstituting native pastures, and facilitating research in areas such as functional genomics and conservation genetics. Seed cannot be stored indefinitely and it is estimated that over 20 000 accessions are now in urgent need of rejuvenation through a cycle of seed multiplication. Iconfors aims to acquire the genetic and economic knowledge needed to improve seed multiplication methodologies for gene banks maintaining ex situ seed collections.
Iconfors is focusing on wind-pollinated grasses (perennial ryegrass and meadow fescue) and an insect-pollinated forage legume (white clover) to:
1) estimate the effects of multiplication on seed amounts and costs of production
2) estimate the effects of management (e.g. isolation chambers vs. field plots, pot size, planting date, etc.) on seed amounts and costs of production
3) estimate the heritability of variation in seed production and assess genotype x year interactions
4) develop paternity analysis techniques and determine the distribution of paternity in terms of the spatio-temporal proximity of male-female pairs
5) estimate the effects of species and multiplication site on pollen contamination in field regeneration plots. Substantial information exists on the extent of gene flow and its dependence on wind and pollinating insects, but there is little on regional variation. By assessing pollen contamination from the same genotypes in a range of European environments, the project will contribute new information that is also relevant to discussions on GMO release
6) deliver information to users and maintainers of genetic resources.

Progress to Date
The first two years of the project have involved setting up experiments and collecting data that is now being analysed. Costs of the various operations are being recorded and assessed. Following the involvement of IPGRI in the mid-term review of Iconfors, regular contact will be maintained to utilise IPGRI's experience and maximise the transfer of knowledge and technology from the project to European gene bank curators and users. Iconfors will benefit from advice on the economics of plant genetic resources management, particularly with regard to the correct calculation of the costs of regeneration, in order to ensure that these are comparable among multiplication sites. It may also be possible to extrapolate Iconfors' results and link them to those obtained from other (tropical) forage species in order to formulate more generic conclusions and recommendations for the regeneration/multiplication of forage species.

Results
For the seed multiplication/regeneration tasks, each of the five participants contributed two native populations of Lolium perenne and two of Trifolium repens. This provided 20 contrasting populations showing a wide range of adaptations to different European environments. Preliminary results showed that the maximum intensity of flowering was 20 - 40 heads in full flower per genotype and day, and that the peak of flowering was around 24 June.
In Norway, five of the ten native Lolium populations (one per country of origin) were selected to compare different regeneration conditions (field plots versus potted plants in permanent isolation chambers in a purpose-built glasshouse). By spring 2002 in Norway, many plants from the Portuguese population were dead. The best survival was in the population from the Czech Republic. The populations flowered over a long period and single plants flowered over a long period on new tillers, which made it difficult to decide the correct harvest time for each plant.
In the Norwegian greenhouse, the Danish population started to head on May 21, and the last to head was the Portuguese population on July 11. The Danish population started flowering on June 7, and the Portuguese population on July 22. There were large differences within the Portuguese population in flowering time and some of these plants would never have ripened in the crossing greenhouse.
In the Netherlands, a range of microsatellite markers (SSRs) was identified to enable unambiguous paternity identification of offspring in Lolium perenne. The origin of paternal parents in field plots in the Czech Republic will be associated with environmental factors (for example, wind speed and wind direction recorded at five minute intervals during the flowering period, together with temperature and relative air humidity) and the phenology of genotypes in the defined positions.

Classified in GRASSLAND, ARABLE CROPS, BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, QUANTITATIVE APPROACHES AND MODELLING

Scientist responsible for the project

Prof. MERVYN HUMPHREYS
Plas Gogerddan
SY23 3EB Aberystwyth
United Kingdom (The) - GB

Phone: +44 1970 823170
Fax: +44 1970 823241
E-mail: mervyn.humphreys@bbsrc.ac.uk

References

Project ID QLRT-1999-30621
Organisation Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research - Genetics and Plant Breeding Dept.
Area 5.1.1
Start date 01 January 2001
Duration (months) 48
Total cost 2 094 670 €
Total EC contribution   870 680 €
Status Completed
Web address of the project   http://www.igergru.bbsrc.ac.uk/iconfors/index.htm

The partners

  • OSEVA PRO Ltd, Grassland Research Station, Czech Republic (The) - CZ
    sevc@iol.cz
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