N.I.Vavilov Institute of Plant Genetic Resources

N.I.Vavilov Institute of Plant Genetic Resources (VIR)

An expert group from the Ministry of Agriculture of Russia

As it was reported earlier, in the middle of September 2010 an expert group initiated by the Ministry of economic development has been working at the Pavlovsk experiment station. The group was headed by the Vice-minister of Agriculture of the Russian Federation V. Kopylov, it comprised heads of departments of the Ministry of Agriculture and directors of institutes under RAAS.

The aim of the assessment performed by the group of expert was to evaluate the current status of the perennial plantings belonging to the genetic collection of the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry (the VIR genetic collection).

The assessment of the perennial plantations produced the following results:

  1. The plot No.2 houses perennial plantings (viburnum, honeysuckle, actinidia, magnolia vine, rowan, sweet and sour cherry, microcerasus, bird cherry, plum, myrobalan plum, sloe, currant, raspberry, dewberry, strawberry, ornamental plants, etc.) belonging to the VIR genetic collection.

 The collection accessions occupy about 25% of the plot. Approximately 50% of its area is left bare fallow (ploughed) representing crop and orchard rotation sites. The remaining area is under shelterbelts, roads and utility structures.

The plants are arranged according to the layouts typical for the species maintained. The plants are in normal condition, they are cared for in satisfactory manner. At the same time, the lack of mechanized soil cultivation is observed on the rows, and several plant species are not trimmed properly. This may be explained by the deficit of staff per an area unit in the collection.

The collections include plant cultivars and rare wild species – crop wild relatives. Already some of the species do not exist in natural environments.

The fertile layer of soil in Plot 2 is 40 cm deep. This is not typical for the natural environments of Leningrad Province and attests to the fact that this site has been used for horticultural purposes for several decades.

Relocation of the perennial plant collection now maintained at Plot 2 is undesirable for the following reasons:

  1. the plot has well-cultivated soil, which makes it possible to provide efficient crop and orchard rotation;

 the plot’s favourable location (the southern slope, shelterbelts, groundwater pattern, propitious wind rose) helps the plants to survive in this climate zone;

  1. the losses after relocation may amount to 20% – 50% of the existing plant diversity

 relocation of the collection according to the appropriate transplanting technology and plant registration procedure may take quite a long time – from 2 to 15 years;

  1. resettlement of the staff does not seem feasible (most of the specialists are 50 and older, their qualification is high, and there is nobody to replace them).

 The plot No.18 contains perennial grain and legume grasses from the VIR genetic collection.

Plant accessions occupy about 20% of the plot area. About 60% of the plot are occupied by crop rotation areas (stubble field, fallow land). The rest of the plot area is occupied by woodland belts, roads and utility buildings.

The collection of fodder crops at the plot includes 12 species, among which are grain and new promising forage crops. The range of represented fodder grass species illustrates uniqueness of the collection in question. The use of said plant accessions in breeding makes it possible to create cultivars with new properties, with resistance to unfavourable environmental factors, diseases and pests, with high productivity and nutrient component combinations required by different animal groups.

The loss of said perennial grasses collection may cause a significant harm to both national and foreign plant breeding.

It is undesirable to transfer the perennial grasses collection from Plot 18 due to the below-listed reasons:

  1. a large number of plant accessions (over 3500) and planting 1320-1350 new accessions annually
  2. the high degree of area cultivation (four-field crop rotation within 70 years)
  3. the seed of perennial grasses are harvested in the 3rd – 4th year of their life cycle
  4. the impossibility for employees to move (most of them are over 50, highly qualified, with no younger replacement)

The plant diversity available at the station is the most valuable source of useful genes that can be used in national and foreign plant breeding. Uniqueness of said plant diversity is due to the permanent thorough study of the conserved accessions that yields a comprehensive set of data on the main economic and biological traits, while the results of investigations are published in catalogues and become accessible to the scientific community.

Collections of genetic diversity conserved at the Pavlovsk Experiment Station have been taking shape over decades and they cannot be maintained at a different experiment station of VIR, since the station in question is located in northern latitudes and harbours winter-tolerant accessions which have been adapted to specific conditions of the region. The areas suitable for cultivating perennial plants within the boundaries of the Pavlovsk Experiment Station are very limited and are already occupied by the existing collections.

The application of any methods of accessions duplication and transfer bears a high risk of the loss of genetic material. The preservation of accessions in the field genebank is an obligatory condition for the secure conservation of genetic diversity of perennial crops.