12.10.2010 Saint-Petersburg Back

The situation with the black currant genetic resources collection at Pavlovsk Experiment Station of VIR as of October 1, 2010
(comments to the resolution of the expert commission)

VIR’s collection of black currant genetic resources at Pavlovsk Station includes 870 accessions and is located on 5 plots with the total acreage of 3.8 hectares, instead of 1.5 hectares mentioned by the expert commission. The number of individual plants in the collection amounts to 2600 shrubs (and with addition of the plants regenerated in hothouses at VIR’s Labs in Pushkin, grown in the nursery at Pavlovsk Station and on an ancillary parcel of land, the number is certain to reach 3000 shrubs).

Dr. O.A. Tikhonova, Senior Research Scientists and Curator of the Black Currant Germplasm Collection, since the start of her employment with VIR (1981), has carried out 4 reconstructions of this collection along with minor mending efforts. At present, the genetic diversity of black currant is maintained in the following areas:

1. The collection of species-specific accessions. Year of planting: 1993. Includes 148 accessions (339 shrubs). These are plant forms of Ribes nigrum subsp. europaeum Jancz. , R. nigrum subsp. Sibiricum Wolf E., R.pauciflorum Turcz. ex Pojark., R. ussuriense Jancz., R. dikuscha Fisch. ex Turcz., R.alpinum L. and a number of interspecific hybrids. All accessions in this collection were obtained by the Institute’s collecting missions launched before and after the Second World War (1930, 1932, 1934, 1940, 1945) in West and East Siberia, Altai, Kazakhstan, as well as in 1970– 1971 (the north of the Russian North-West and East Siberia) and 1987 (Yakutia). These data are recorded in the Register of Crop Accessions and the Register of the Fruit Dept. showing the year when each accession was added to the collection, collecting site and catalogue number. The collection is unique because it maintains live accessions collected in the areas where these plant forms might be already extinct or where it is next to impossible to organize plant explorations due to financial and other difficulties. Besides, it is considered matchless because it contains accessions promising as sources of resistance to fungal diseases (powdery mildew and anthracnose) and, which is even more important, to bud mite and doubling. The collection may be rightfully recognised as the country’s national heritage.

2. The plot for preliminary testing. Year of planting: 1998. Situated directly at the back of the wild species maintenance area. Comprises 94 accessions (271 shrubs). Planting pattern: 1 ? 3 m. This plot has been allotted for the hybrids of cvs. Neosypayushchayasya, Naryadnaya, Koksa and Golubka with the forms of European and Siberian subspecies of black currant. The accessions maintained here were sorted out, reproduced and transferred from the old plot planted in 1972. The value of this plot is witnessed by the fact that 99% of its accessions for a very long period of time (more than 40 years) have displayed high resistance to bud mite and doubling together with other important and useful features.

3. The new variety collection goes beyond the preliminary testing plot. It was set out in 2005 -2008 and currently includes 197 accessions (517 shrubs). The collection’s layout pattern is 1 ? 3 m. Represented here are the newest cultivars bred at the leading national breeding centres (in Barnaul, Orel, Michurinsk, Moscow, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk and Bryansk), by foreign breeders (from Sweden, Finland, Scotland, Romania, Germany, Hungary, UK, USA, etc. – 21 countries in total), and in breeding and research institutes of the republics that formerly were part of the Soviet Union (Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Estonia). The process of formation is not yet finalized for this collection. In the spring of 2011 the second block will be laid out to harbour the plants from the nursery mentioned earlier.

4. The variety collection. Currently under reconstruction (the accessions are being regenerated and relocated to the new variety collection). This site was made ready in 1994-1996. At present, 459 accessions (880 shrubs) are maintained here. This collection duplicated the accessions from the old plot (planted in 1981) and also contains new accessions. Preserved here are the varieties added to the collection since the time when the station was founded (1926), obtained before and after (1945–1948) the Second World War (98 accessions) and new cultivars of various genetic and ecogeographical origin from domestic and foreign breeding centres. For 2011, there are plans to continue regeneration of the plants with green cuttings from this plot and later relocate them to the new variety collection (laid out in 2005–2008).

5. The old collection plot planted in 1981. The collection accessions from this have been regenerated and secured within Plot No. 4. However, this process is not yet finalized due to mass thefts, so 10–15 accessions remain pending for relocation. That is why we are still forced to maintain this plot. Its stubbing is planned for the autumn of 2011.

It should be noted that the black currant plants maintained in the collection of wild species, the preliminary testing plot and the new variety collection are in good condition, which is obvious from the photo images. The plants in the variety collection of 1994–1996 are in satisfactory state.

All the work to regenerate the accessions, grow them up and relocate to new sites has been performed by the curator O.A. Tikhonova alone. Due to the lack of funds, most of the maintenance services are also provided by the curator (pruning, application of mineral and organic fertilizers, weeding, tilling of the new variety collection, etc.). Regular maintenance is very time-consuming, but the collection is nevertheless being studied, sources of valuable traits are identified and distributed to the country’s breeding centres. Hybridization efforts are carried out jointly with the North-East Research Institute of Agriculture. On the basis of the crossings performed with the black currant accessions from Pavlovsk Station, promising hybrids were identified as future cultivars at the Agricultural University in Balsgard, Sweden. Besides, 12 cultuvars have been bred at the Station. Of these, 8 have already been released (there are authorship certificates) and 4 undergo official variety trials.

It is absolutely impossible to relocate the black currant collection of 870 accessions within 2 years, as proposed by the expert commission. It took several decades for the curator O.A. Tikhonova to lay out the said conservation sites. Under the existing circumstances (the absence of greenhouses with misting units makes it inevitable to reproduce the accessions in the hothouse of Pushkin Labs with manual irrigation), it will take from 3 to 5 years for one person to regenerate the whole collection. After that the plants will need to be planted for growing up for 1 to 3 years (depending on the maintenance conditions), as only standard seedlings may be planted out for preservation, with well-developed above-ground and underground (root system) parts. When such replanting is done, it will be necessary to wait until the beginning of fruiting (3–5 years) and perform authenticity tests. With the lack of proper funding and unavailability of a guard to protect the collection, the process of relocation may drag on for many years. That is why the conclusion about a possibility to relocate such vast collection in 2 years is no mo

   Olga Tikhonova, Ph. D.

   Curator of the Black Currant Germplasm Collection

                                Senior Research Scientist of the Dept. of Fruit Genetic Resources