History, achievements, and current status of genetic resources conservation
This paper has been written to look back at the early period of crop genetic resources conservation and inform readers of what has been achieved so far and what needs to be done in the future. The recognition of the value of crop genetic resources and early efforts at collecting germplasm by pioneer plant explorers, such as F.N. Meyer and N.I. Vavilov, and some of the strategies they employed are described. Historic examples of collection, evaluation, and utilization of genetic resources, notably by the late J.R. Harlan and other U.S. agronomists, are highlighted. The use of wild progenitors in improving biotic and abiotic stress tolerance has been covered. Previous and present status of genetic resources collection and storage, both ex situ in gene banks and in situ in the natural habitats of crops and their wild progenitors, is discussed. The creation of agrobiodiversity is a dynamic process and hence the work on conservation of genetic resources has to continue. With the increasing use of biotechnology in crop improvement, the value of germplasm already collected and conserved will substantially increase as researchers seek out new sources of useful genes in the future.