Managing self-pollinated germplasm collections to maximize utilization

Randall L. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The primary mission of germplasm collections is to preserve genetic diversity, but germplasm is preserved so that it can be used. Historically, the standard practice is that all germplasm accessions should be maintained as collected, so that even self-pollinated accessions are maintained as heterogeneous seed lots. In theory, this seems like an ideal strategy for preserving genetic diversity, but in practice, it is simply not workable. Heterogeneous accessions are in constant risk of change and loss. It is possible to mitigate the risk factors, but they can only be lessened and not eliminated. Maintaining pure-lined accessions for self-pollinated species not only eliminates the problems associated with genetic drift and natural selection, but also enhances the accuracy of the evaluations and fosters effective germplasm utilization. Neither the current potential to characterize entire germplasm collections with tens of thousands of DNA markers nor the future potential of whole genome sequencing to completely characterize the diversity of all accessions in collections can be fully realized for self-pollinated species unless accessions are homogeneous and homozygous. In this manuscript, the case is made for pure-lining self-pollinated germplasm accessions using the USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection, which has maintained pure-lined accessions for over 50 years, as an example. There is also an analysis of the extensive seed distribution from this collection to indicate the value of a diverse collection of genotypes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-133
Number of pages11
JournalPlant Genetic Resources: Characterisation and Utilisation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Glycine
  • germplasm management
  • germplasm utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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