Dec 2017: Many changes at the GRU.

Lots of change in GRU as the year comes to an end. The new GRU Manager, Noam Chuyat, will move into position in January 2018 and the decorators are in at the moment giving the place a new lick of paint.

July 2017: GRU Manager Job Vacancy

The JIC is looking to recruit a new GRU Manager following the imminent retirement of Mike Ambrose who has led the GRU since it’s inception. The GRU is a national capability supported by the BBSRC with a strong focus on service provision and high quality curation and distribution of germplasm. The GRU hosts a significant number of internationally important public germplasm collections small grain cereals, legumes and brassicas and a growing portfolio of new resources of high strategic value to the research and breeding communities.

April 2017: John Innes Centre celebrates £77.9M 5 year funding package

The BBSRC today announced a £319M 5-year funding package for the biosciences, including £77.9M for the John Innes Centre over the course of the next five years. The statement from the JIC stresses the key role that the centre’s core capabilities play in underpinning the four Institute Strategic Programmes (ISPs). Foremost amongst these is the JIC GRU national capability, which provides key support across the ISPs but particularly to Designing Future Wheat, Plant Health, and Genes in the Environment programmes. The unit’s current and future activities, maintaining promoting and developing existing assets, and actively seeking newly developed resources, will help drive the progress in these programmes toward successful outcomes.

January 2017 In silico wheat TILLING populations (Exome capture) go public

Congratulation to the authors of the recent PNAS publication ‘ Uncovering Hidden Variation in polyploid wheat’.  The GRU is delighted to support this important initiative with the curation and distribution of M4 mutagenized seed stocks that can be ordered through SeedStor or via a shopping cart on the wheat-tilling website. This resource consists of TILLING populations developed in tetraploid durum wheat cv 'Kronos' and hexaploid bread wheat cv 'Cadenza' as part of a joint project between the University of California Davis, Rothamsted Research, The Earlham Institute, and John Innes Centre.


January 2017 JI Pea Research  & Timevine

From the very early days when William Bateson became the first director of the John Innes Horticultural Institute, genetic research on peas and links to commercial breeding has been near continuous right up to the present day. This new web resource features a timevine of case studies, current research, impact and relevance and opportunities.

December 2016 1st UK Workshop on Implementing the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing

Access to genetic diversity is the life blood of research and crop improvement. Supporting Biodiversity conservation while ensuring that we exercise due diligence in sourcing germplasm with the recquired legal freedom to operate are now part of our professional lives. Navigating a way through all this needs clear markers and assistance and the Regulatory Delivery team of DEBIS. Check out Hannah Griffith’s  useful blog of the background issues and a handy checklist of actions.


September 2016 New Wheat Training website

A useful new information and training website packed with lots of practical resources has been launched by colleagues here at JIC. The site aims to help budding wheat scientists as well as researchers looking to expand their work into wheat. Content features guides on how to grow and cross wheat, wheat genomic resources and how to use the TILLING wheat resources for which the GRU is responsible for curating and distributing. Well worth a look.

August 2016 - Thank You KWS!

A big thank you to Peter Werner, Gabi Everett and colleagues at KWS UK for help with maintaining some of our Hordeum spontenaeum accessions. Not only did they grow and harvest these difficult lines for us this summer, they even invited me over to check that the conditions were "GRU-compliant". Sadly for me Peter has said he is not too keen on growing any again in the near future as they are a nightmare to deal with. Adrian, 2/8/16.

April 2016 Plant Breeding Matters

The British Society of Plant Breeders has just released a series of short videos ‘Plant Breeding Matters’ that set out to explain what plant breeding is all about, and how it touches everyone's lives for the better.  The first of these ‘Improving our Everyday Lives‘ features the import role of genebanks as a source diversity for crop improvement and as a reference point for what has gone before.

February 2016 2nd GRU customer feedback survey now open

All our metrics show that we are servicing more requests from a wider audience than ever before. We really want to hear from you on what you think on how we are performing and our future plans so please spare a few minutes to complete our 2nd GRU Customer feedback survey.

January 2016  Major updates in SeedStor 1.02

We are pleased to report a number of improvements in SeedStor that are now live to users. i. The Watkins Collection of landrace wheat selections has been added to the list of browsable collections. ii. A summary overview tab has been developed as the default accession record page so viewers can quickly see key information on the one screen. iii. New contact buttons have been added to the top of pages to allow users to quickly record and send us queries or questions as they go through their sessions. We have recently started to work with a few external users to help ensure SeedStor delivers on real user needs. If you would like to assist us in this work then we will be very pleased to hear from you so just drop us a line.

December 2015 New video

A year in the John Innes Centre Wheat Field Trials
Simon Orford talks through the key stages in the annual cycle of our autumn sown wheat trials and describes in detail how to score key traits or characteristics linked to crop performance such as ear emergence, anthesis, crop height, lodging and tiller harvesting that underpin the genetic investigations aimed at understanding and improving the wheat crop.
The video was developed as part of the Wheat Improvement Strategic Programme (WISP), funded through the BBSRC.

August 2015 Mendel’s Peas

Peas supplied by the GRU to the University of Dundee Botanic Garden have featured on BBC Scotland’s favourite gardening programme ‘Beechgrove Garden’ in a spot on Gregor Mendel. The peas feature 20 minutes in to the programme. The materials come from a set of stocks that demonstrate the seven pairs of characters that Mendel presented in his classic paper.

August 2015 Progress towards the perfect pea

Scientists at the John Innes Centre have successfully identified a single accession (JI 262) of the crop wild relative (Pisum elatius) as a double null mutant for the major pea seed protease inhibitors Tl1 and Tl2. The natural germplasm variant was identified using a fluorescent multiplex genetic marker screen of DNA plates of 2822 accessions of tJohn Innes Pisum Collection. A further two mutations induced in the French cultivar Cameor (JI 3253) were also identified and cleaned up via a back-crossing programme. These finding and materials are being taken up by industry as an aid to helping livestock absorb more protein from their diet.

August 17 SeedStor database system down

We are aware that the public interface to SeedStor was out of action from sometime on the 15th. . Computing have corrected the fault and all is now workign again. We apologise for the inconenience to those who tried using our system at that time and thanks to those who reported the fault.

July GRU Intern Rachel's Daily Blog

iHere in the GRU we’ve not got into social media as of yet, mostly because of time and, well it takes a particular style of communication to make it interesting and engaging. Not a problem for Rachel Taylor, an Intern from the University of Birmingham. Check out her daily blog of what she has been doing with us n the GRU and life in general.

June 2015 New SNP marker data on UK Heritage wheat accessions

As part of our commitment to increase the availability of maker sets on our materials we are releasing a dataset (SNP DATA: Set 1) based on 402 markers generated on a set of 109 heritage wheats from the BBSRC Small Grain Cereals Collection. Our thanks to all those concerned for enabling this action.

March 2015 Links made between PeaGerminate marker dataset and SeedStor

An important priority in genetic resources is the linking of datasets to germplasm collections. In 2000 the EU project ‘TEGERM’ resulted in the application of retro-element markers (RBIPS) to 3020 accessions of the John Innes Pisum Collection. The resulting structure analysis of JI Pisum Collection was published by Jing et al. 2010. The microarrays and molecular marker results of the project were uploaded into ‘Germinate Pea’ along with a further dataset of SSAP markers.
Links have been created between the two systems at the accession level to assist users in accessing enhanced data and requesting seed of these resources.


February 2015 New images added to SeedStor

A further 92 images have been added since the system went live in December last year. This brings the total to 1931 for the BBSRC Small Grain Cereal Collections from 1098 accessions and 209 for the JI Pisum Collection from 153 accessions.

December 2014 GRU new searchable database SeedStor goes live!

With the end of the year fast approaching we are very pleased to announce the public release of our new GRU database SeedStor. A year in development, this is a beta release of a LIMS and database system which we will continue to develop. The system enables users to browse across four our main collections and more will follow as we migrate data across. For the first time we are able to share extended data sets including phenotypic collection site data on these resources. The system is packed with useful browse and search facilities and there is a shopping cart to assist in the selection of lines. An extensive collection of images linked to these resources will be added early in the New Year along with further improvements. We are aware that there are a few browser specific issues with viewing images and reports which we are working to resolve. Happy browsing!


November 2014 Newly accessioned NIL’s for Ppd-1 alleles backcrossed into Alchemy and Robigus

We are pleased to announce the availability of a set of 37 BC2F4 lines for 8 insensitive Photoperiod 1 (Ppd-1) alleles from the B- and D- genomes of bread wheat and the A-genome of durum wheat. The NIL's were developed at NIAB, UK using the UK winter wheat cultivars Alchemy and Robigus as the recurrent BC parents. Further details of the lines and their response to short, natural and extended photoperiod are reported in Bentley et al. 2014 (doi: 10.1093/jxb/ert038). The lines have been accessioned into the BBSRC Small Grain Cereals Wheat collection as accessions 10237 - 10274. Find them using our search facility at or Email to request further information.



November 2014 Steve Reader retires after 41 years

On the 14th November, Steve Reader retired. One of the many contributions that Steve made in his long career was as Curator of the Triticeae and the Wheat Precise Genetic Stocks collections, formally at the Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridge before the materials and Steve moved up to the JIC in 1990.
Steve spent significant time over the past two years in updating the databases and training and transferring his extensive knowledge and skills in cytogenetic techniques to ensure that they remain part of the core competence here at the JIC. We wish Steve a long and well earned retirement.  Adrian Turner of the GRU has now taken over as Curator of the Wheat Precise Genetic Stocks Collection. The Triticeae Collection will be curated by the GRU team as a whole. Please contact for further information.

September 2014 Launch of the updated Crop Wild Relative database

The Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) are an important source of adaptive variation for crop improvement. The CRW database has recently been updated to include important information on ‘biodiversity hotspots’ by scientists at the University of Birmingham as potential targets for in situ conservation plans. It is the most comprehensive source of data of its type in the world and is the result of a truly global initiative organised by the FAO. The GRU has assisted in reviewing the data content for Pisum.



August 2014 SeedStor An information management System for Genebank Curators

SeedStor is being created by the team at the GRU and NBI Scientific Computing. Core functions include request processing, new accessions, stock control including regeneration and reporting. The system will integrate all our database systems and search functionalities. We are interested in collaborating and sharing the code and future development of this project which is targeted at Genebank curators and customer data and service provision.


July 2014 New publication on the genetic diversity and structure analysis of the A.E. Watkins landrace wheat collection

In the late 1920’s, A.E. Watkins assembled a collection of several thousand lines of diploid, tetraploid and hexaploid wheats from 32 countries around the world. This provides a useful snapshot of genetic variation in wheat prior to the green revolution. We are pleased to announce the publication of marker analysis used to explore the underlying structure and relationships of 826 stabilised SSD lines of hexaploid wheats from the original collection and how this knowledge is being used in the development of new resources for research and breeding which should accelerate the detection of new alleles for crop improvement.

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May 2014 Listing of marker verified stocks for Major Gene Near-Isogenic Lines for Ppd1 and Rht

The development of Near Isogenic lines (NILs) involves crossing alleles of specific genes into a common genetic background by cycles of backcrossing and selection to end up with lines that differ only at the genomic region of interest. NILs represent powerful tools for the study and evaluation of particular alleles of combinations of alleles.
We are pleased to announce our listings of marker verified stocks of NILs for the Ppd1 (one set) and Rht series (fourteen sets) of lines in wheat. Over time we intend to extend this element of quality assurance to other important stocks across the collections.


March New publication on haplotype variation sheds light on the co-evolution of potyviruses and cultivated peas

The availability of DNA resources of germplasm collections is providing to be a game changer in the search for novel allelic variation in target genes of known sequence. This can be seen as offering a good return on investment on the cost and efforts of assembling and maintaining crop seed banks over the past 50 years.
DNA samples of 2803 pea accessions from 7 collections around the world including the JI Pisum Collection have helped establish a geographical gradient of 34 elF4E alleles involved in resistance to Potyviruses in pea. The broad screen found the elF4EA variant confers resistance to the P1 PSbMV pathotype to be exclusively found in cultivated landrace materials and not related crop wild relatives. The elF4F variants found in the Highlands of Central Asia, the Northern region of the Indian sub-continent, Eastern Africa and China were found to be tightly linked to the diversity of the pathogen raising interesting questions about the co-evolution of the potyviruses and the pea host. The full manuscript can be found at doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0090394.


January 2014 Bristol Cereals DB Stocks Collection open for requests

We are pleased to announce that bagged seed stocks of a set of sequenced lines from the Functional Genomics Group at the University of Bristol on the Wheat SNP Database are available on request. Details can be found under Germplasm Resources. We look forward to hearing from you.

December 2013 Best Year ever for the GRU

As the emails stop coming in and the phone falls silent and everyone starts to wind down for the end of year and being with family, the GRU Christmas elves are busy wrapping up the last of the seed lots to go off in the post (far safer than the sledge!). As we total up the number of enquires 2013 turns out to have been our busiest year ever by a big margin. We’ve enjoyed engaging with old friends and new and helping you with seed, advice and information and look forward to hearing from you in the New Year. BEST WISHES from the GRU team

December 2013 New graphical introduction to wheat aneuploid stocks

We are pleased to announce a new graphical aid to wheat aneuploid stocks which we hope will be of use to those working with these stocks.

November 2013 Impact of gene on crop development could boost cereal yieldsThe GRU helps to underpin the science of a number of UK Institutions with advice, germplasm and working visits. We are therefore pleased to announce a major publication arising from work at the James Hutton and the University of Dundee that appears in the current issue of PNAS. The work demonstrates that a gene encoding a protein called HvAPETLA2 (HvAP2) controls how closely grains are packed on the top of the barley stem or spike, an important agronomic trait called spike density. A press release of the work can be found at the James Hutton.


October 2013 Pulse Promise from Genetic Advances

This is the title of an article in the current issue of Crop Production Magazine. The report focuses on the UK research efforts at the John Innes Centre, PGRO and NIAB within the Defra supported Pulse Crop Genetic Improvement Network (PCGIN) and associated projects, and the impact of recent advances in genetics and biotechnology are aiding our understanding of development and seed quality and how these finding are being translated to crop improvement. The article also features the JI Pisum collection maintained by the GRU in providing the genetic variation and knowledge to help underpin the efforts of the research and breeding communities.


October 2013 Global Crop Diversity Trust Pea expert consultation workshop held at the JIC

The GRU has just hosted a productive 2 day meeting of experts to discuss the availability, conservation needs and utility of crop wild relatives for pre-breeding in pea. This was a small meeting with delegates from the USA, Czech Republic, Russia and a skype link to Australia. A report of the meeting will be made public. A longer manuscript to capture the current status of these issues is also planned.

August 2013 GRU field Harvesting Complete

A window of good weather has enabled us to complete the field harvest of all regeneration and demonstration materials. Plenty of demonstrations are planned for next year and we will keep you posted of what, where and when.

July 2013 Demonstration plots of heritage wheats and barley

The long cool spring has delayed crop growth by some 3 weeks compared to an average year. We are pleased to report that these Heritage Cereal plots are all in ear and ready for viewing. If you are interested in coming to see them either as an individual or with a group then please contact us to make an appointment.

July 2013 New Genetic Garden opens at the Dundee Botanic garden

The GRU is pleased to have supplied supporting materials to scientists from the University of Dundee and the James Hutton Institute who this week will unveil a new Genetic Garden explaining the role of genes and genetics in conjunction with College of Life Sciences Plant Division in the Botanic Garden which opened this month.

June 2013 GRU at the National Institutes of Biosciences (NIB) meeting

The GRU is presenting a poster during the session. The on our collections and services and how we can help at the forthcoming NIB’s meeting at Roslin, Edinburgh. This important meeting provides us with a chance to engage with a wide cross section of the scientific community as well as colleagues from BBSRC central office.

June 12-13 2013 Come and see us at Cereals 2013 near Lincoln

GRU has been involved in the John Innes display as part of the BBSRC stand. Our display is a growing demonstration of wheat evolution with highlights as to traits that have scientists and breeders have found in these ancient forms and incorporated into modern wheats.


April 2013 Focus on Biodiversity

There is a special feature on the GRU and its links with breeders in the Spring issue of Plant Breeding Matters (information from the British Society of Plant Breeders).

Feburary 2013 New GRU Germplasm Manager

We are pleased to announce a new member of the GRU team. Dr Adrian Turner is a new Germplasm manager who will lead the development of our stock validation programme targeted primarily on specialist stocks where molecular marker and phenotype checks will provide valuable quality assurance to our operations and resources.

February 2013 GRU You Tube Channel tops 1000 views across 63 countries

In just under 6 months the 5 GRU information resource videos on guides to crossing in wheat and peas and explanations of different aspects of our work. The highest figures being for the UK, USA, India, Australia, Canada and with remarkably good figures from across South America and the Middle and Far East. We are delighted that these resources are proving useful to so many and will be adding more over the course of the year.

January 2013 New wheat resources from the Bristol Wheat Genomic Group

We are pleased to announce that following discussions with Prof. Keith Edwards at the University of Bristol, the GRU is set to become the stock distribution centre for seed of the high density mapping and exome capture targeted resequencing lines for the Bristol Group. The material is currently being multiplied under glass and will be available from the GRU from late summer 2013.


December 2012

Welcome to our new Germplasm Resources Unit website.This site is still under development but we felt we wanted to share some of the new functionality and features with our users sooner rather than later. We have introduced a range of new pages, features and funtionality which we intend to build on further. If you have any comments on the new desig , we would be pleased to hear from you. Please email comments to Mike Ambrose ( Also, don't forget to subscribe to our e-newsletter Seed Bank News

July 2012

The GRU is involved in training and advising on procedures relating to germplasm management and related activities. We are aware that there is potentially a much wider audience for such resources so we have started to produce a range of practical guides which we are making available via the web.

The Germplasm Resources Unit is a national capability supported by the BBSRC for the curation, promotion and dissemination of germplasm which serves academic, industrial and non-industrial groups both within the UK and internationally. Since 2012 we have accepted long term curation responsibility of several new resoruce collections that are of high strategic value to the bioscience community and we welcome apporaches on new resources which might benefit from being curated and distributed by the GRU.

The collections are housed within a purpose built facility maintained at 1.5°C and 10%RH with some 600m3 of storage capacity.

 Materials from the collections are available on request to researchers, commercial companies and interested growers subject to availability. Material is also available for educational displays and demonstrations.

 All materials are sent out accompanied by a material transfer agreement (MTA), the specific version being dependent on the particular material in question. The main public collections (JI Pisum collection and the BBSRC Small Grain Cereals Collections) form part of the UK’ contribution to the Multilateral System (MLS) of the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The MTA issued for the use of these resources is the standard MTA (sMTA) of the ITPGRFA.  This sMTA outlines the conditions of use and responsibilities of the recipient and should be retained for future reference for the following reasons;

  • The sMTA is issued under the ITPGRFA. As such it provides the necessary evidence of ‘due diligence’ should you later be required to show an audit trail for the origin of the materials in further grant proposals or possible commercialisation of materials that have used any of these materials in their development.
  • Materials covered by the sMTA of the ITPGRFA and is outside the scope of the Nagoya Protocol which covers access and benefit sharing for all other germplasm. Evidence of the exact terms under which your material was sourced might be important in answering any questions that might arise under either instrument.

Please note that passing on the material to further parties should be done under the same terms as they were received. Please email if you have any queries and for details of other agreements.

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