New ornamental plant germplasm center celebrated

A new gene bank for ornamental crops will help ensure a bright future for floral and nursery plants that make colorful, fragrant bouquets or beautify backyard gardens and other landscapes.

Located at The Ohio State University, Columbus, the Ornamental Plant Germplasm Center is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's nationwide network of plant repositories. Each gene bank is somewhat like a Ft. Knox for plants, where germplasm-- seeds, bulbs, and other living tissue--is safeguarded, according to David Tay, director of the new center.

Without gene banks, genes that confer valuable traits such as natural resistance to insects or disease can be lost when plants that are popular today are replaced by newer, trendier varieties. That's why gene banks preserve wild relatives of domesticated crops, as well as older, heirloom varieties no longer grown commercially.

Begun under an agreement with The Ohio State University in 1999, the center is the only one in the National Plant Germplasm System to specialize exclusively in herbaceous ornamental plants.

Source: Marcia Wood, USDA-ARS


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