Plant Gene Resources of Canada

About Plant Gene Resources of Canada (PGRC)

Why Canada has a genebank


Plant Gene Resources of Canada (PGRC) is the Canadian national repository for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture preserved and distributed mostly as seeds but also as cuttings, tubers or vegetative tissue. This material is used in plant breeding and in research for agriculture and horticulture or for educational purpose. Preserving the genetic diversity of crops and crop wild relatives is important because this diversity has been declining during the last 150 years due to the industrialization of agriculture, urbanization and other environmental changes. In agriculture and horticulture, it is essential to steadily adapt crop plants to changing environments, production systems and demands by producers or consumers regarding quality. Plant breeding supports this and a resilient agricultural sector relies on access to genetically diverse material of crop plants and their wild relatives which is supplied by genebanks such as PGRC

The mandate and deliverables of PGRC

The mandate of PGRC is to acquire, preserve and evaluate the genetic diversity of crops and their wild relatives with focus on germplasm of economic importance or potential for Canada. The main deliverables of PGRC are:

  • Viable germplasm of crops and crop wild relatives
  • Relevant information on germplasm holding s by PGRC
  • Contribute to conservation and utilization of plant genetic diversity for food and agriculture

PGRC as part of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AFFC)

The responsibility of managing the Canadian national genebank collections with plant genetic resources for food and agriculture is shared among three Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Research and Development Centres:
(1) Plant Gene Resources of Canada (PGRC), located at the Saskatoon Research and Development Centre (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)

  • preserves all seed germplasm in central storage vaults
  • distributes seed germplasm
  • maintains the Genetic Resource Information Network-Canadian Version (GRIN-CA) database for all germplasm holdings

(2) Canadian Clonal Genebank (CCGB), located at the Harrow Research and Development Centre (Harrow, Ontario)

  • preserves and distributes fruit germplasm

(3) Canadian Potato Gene Resources (CPGR), located at the Fredericton Research and Development Centre (Fredericton, New Brunswick)

  • preserves and distributes potato germplasm

Germplasm holdings at PGRC

The germplasm holdings at PGRC and the associated locations currently include 110,444 accessions covering 47 botanical families, 258 genera and 1,036 botanical species. The cereals, barley, oat and wheat, account for more than 80% of all PGRC's germplasm holdings. In germplasm preservation of these crops and their wild relatives, PGRC is one of the major genebanks world-wide. PGRC cooperates with other Canadian organisations, universities and international genebanks and organizations such as the Global Crop Diversity Trust located in Bonn, Germany, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations located in Rome Italy, for improving efficiency in preserving this germplasm for future generations. Long term preservation of genetically diverse germplasm is important, both nationally and internationally. PGRC accessions by crop

Core activities at PGRC

Germplasm maintenance

The seed samples are stored in the PGRC seed vaults for medium term storage (+4 °C and a relative air humidity of 20%) or long term storage (-18 °C). Security back-up storage is provided by the Svalbard Global Seed Vault and the United States Department of Agriculture at Fort Collins, Colorado. Seed viability testing following international standards is conducted regularly.

Acquisition of germplasm

Acquisition of new germplasm occurs by donations from AAFC and other Canadian researchers and plant breeders, exchange with other genebanks, and collecting nationally and internationally.

Regeneration and characterization

Growing plants in the field, greenhouses and growth cabinets ensures sufficient seed amounts and high viability. During regeneration, basic assessments of morphological and agronomic traits are conducted. This data is made available to genebank clients via our website. This is a steadily ongoing activity at PGRC.

Evaluation

Assessing germplasm for disease resistances, quality characteristics, molecular diversity or other traits of relevance for plant breeders is done by PGRC in cooperation with AAFC scientists at various locations and partners at Universities.

Distribution of germplasm

PGRC distributes about 4000 accessions annually with clients on all continents. All germplasm is distributed free of charge using a Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA). This SMTA is part of the implementation of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture to which Canada and about 130 other countries are signatories. This supports access to diverse germplasm world-wide and thereby ensures food security, but also preservation and development of genetic diversity in the on-farm sector and in genebanks world-wide by sharing benefits arising from use of genebank material. PGRC provides germplasm for research, plant breeding and education.

Documentation and information on germplasm

Information on PGRC holdings, detailed searches for material based on crop type, botanical species, origin, and quality characters, and germplasm requests are facilitated by the PGRC Internet website (http://www.agr.gc.ca/pgrc-rpc).

Research in diversity

PGRC is a partner in several research projects to enhance the understanding of crop diversity, its utilization and conservation. AAFC scientists conducting such research presently include:
  Dr. Peter Chang, Saskatoon: chemical evaluation of rye and oat;
  Dr. Yong-Bi Fu, Saskatoon: molecular diversity analysis in several species.
  Dr. Sara Martin, Ottawa: DNA amount assessments in oat;
  Dr. Mike Schellenberg, Swift Current: Native Canadian rangeland species;
  Dr. Nicholas Tinker, Ottawa: molecular diversity analysis in oat;

AAFC's commitment to genetic resources conservation and utilisation

PGRC supports the implementation of the AAFC Science and Technology Branch strategic objectives to (1) increase agricultural productivity, (2) enhance environmental performance, (3) improve attributes for food and non-food uses and (4) address threats to the value chain. The long term economic and environmental sustainability of the Canadian agricultural sector is supported by PGRC.

PGRC in the context of the Science and Technology Branch of AAFC

PGRC belongs to the portfolio of the Associate Director Biodiversity and Collections located at the Ottawa Research and Development Centre of AAFC. This links PGRC to the other collections AAFC maintains. Many genebank accessions preserved at PGRC are also documented as herbarium specimens at the National Vascular Plant Herbarium (DAO) at Ottawa. Other genetic resources collections of AAFC include: (1) The Canadian Collection of Fungal Cultures at Ottawa, (2) The Canadian Plant Virus Collection (CPVC) at Summerland, BC and (3) The Canadian Animal Genetic Resources (CAGR) at Saskatoon.

PGRC in the International Context

Canada is a party to the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture to which about 130 other countries are also signatories. Most germplasm in the stewardship of the national genebanks of participating countries and the germplasm of the 11 genebanks of the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers is part of the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit Sharing. This framework allows access to diverse germplasm world-wide and thereby ensures global food security. At the same time it supports preservation and development of genetic diversity in the on-farm sector and in genebanks world-wide by sharing benefits arising from use of genebank material. World-wide, it is estimated that genebanks preserve about 7.4 million accessions of plant genetic resources in 1750 genebanks. PGRC belongs to the large collections in this context. Of particular relevance are the World Base collections of oat and barley preserved by PGRC. Genebanks strive to adhere to the Genebank Standards for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture which the Commission on Genetic Resources of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published in 2013. PGRC stays in touch with organizations such as the Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and Bioversity International. Compliancy with international rules is important when exchanging germplasm and to achieve this PGRC cooperates with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

History of Plant Gene Resources of Canada (PGRC)

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada appointed the first Plant Gene Resources Officer and established PGRC in 1970. It moved in 1998 from Ottawa to a modern facility in Saskatoon. The Canadian Clonal Genebank at the Harrow Research and Development Centre was designated in 1989 as the primary germplasm repository for fruit tree and small fruit crops. Originally located near Trenton, Ontario it moved in 1996 to Harrow. The Canadian Potato Gene Resources is part of the AAFC Fredericton Research and Development Centre where AAFC which has a focus on potato breeding and research.

Contact Information

  Plant Gene Resources of Canada
  Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  107 Science Place
  Saskatoon, SK
  S7N 0X2
  CANADA
  Tel.: 306-385-9463
  Fax: 306-385-9489
  www.agr.gc.ca/pgrc-rpc