BBSRC Cereals Collection

These collections are the largest and most authoritative in the UK, initially formed in the late 1970’s through the amalgamation of working collections from a range of institutions including barley stocks from the James Hutton institute (formerly known as the Scottish Crops Research Institute at Invergowrie, Dundee), wheat from the former Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridge and oats from the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research at Aberystwyth (now IBERS of the University of Aberystwyth). The old reference collections of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) which were disbanded in the 1960's are also included.

The collections were formed alongside public sector breeding programmes to provide access to the broad genetic variation required to drive forward progress in pest and disease resistance, plant architecture as well as quality traits such as seed storage composition. They are thus very comprehensive in material bred and trailed in the UK and Western Europe. In addition they have also acted as long term home for holdings of material coming into the UK from collections and expeditions throughout the last century which has resulted in large holdings of land races from different parts of the world. Over the years research lines from more basic science programmes have been accepted including key reference stocks, mutation stocks, near isogenic lines and precise genetic stocks.

Since the 1990’s the collections have become independent of breeding programmes which has allowed them to broaden their remit and focus. Links to the breeding sector have remained strong, not only in the provision of germplasm but as an important route for new accessions through an agreement between the GRU and the cereals section of the British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB) whereby members routinely deposit material of their national list entries for new cereal varieties into a special BSPB closed collection maintained at the GRU. Once material is national listed it is transferred into the main BBSRC collections from which it is available to users under the terms of the Multilateral System of the International Treaty. Data for this collection is available in our information system SeedStor.

Summary statistics for the collections are as follows:-

  • Triticum - 9526 accessions. UK holdings 520 cultivars and 782 breeders lines. Bread wheat types 7971 accessions including 1787 named varieties, 2135 breeders lines, 3658 landraces or selections from landraces. Durum types 200 accessions including 89 named cultivars, 49 breeders lines and 45 landraces or selections from landraces.
  • Hordeum -10908 accessions. UK holdings 710 named varieties, 924 breeders lines. 1954 named varieties, 2038 breeders lines. 4500 landraces or selections from landraces. 330 genetic stocks.
  • Avena - 3000 accessions. UK holding 276 cultivars and 182 breeders lines A. sativa 1845 accessions incudes 1047 named cultivars, 454 breeders lines and 160 landraces. A.sativa nuda 168 accessions includes 30 named varieties, 75 breeders lines and 28 landraces. A. byzantina 158 accessions includes 30 named varieties, 118 landraces or selections from land races.

(As of November 2009 we have uploaded listings of WGIN wheat germplasm maintained at RRes-Rothampsted into our searchable database. Currently these consist of accession of Triticum monococcum and have been allocated accession numbers > 40000. )

Wild Triticeae Collection

The collection of 696 stocks up over the past 60 years. An extremely diverse source of novel genes for cereal improvement and for taxonomic reference studies. Contains accessions of the following genera; Aegilops, Agropyron, Dasypyrum, Eremopyron, Henradia, Secale, Triticum. Data for this collection is available in our information system SeedStor.

Watkins Landrace Wheat Collection

Selections of landrace wheats (durum and aestivum froms) from 32 countries around the world assembled as a working collection in the late 1920s by A. E. Watkins in Cambridge who used the official channels of the Board of Trade in London to request materials from abroad. The collection initially consisted of several thousand accessions which were used to study the genetics of a range of ear characteristics including awning and colouration of the glumes and grains. A major outcome was the elucidation of the genetic control of awning in wheat (Watkins & Ellerton, 1940). Over time and due to poor storage during WWII a great many were lost. The current collection stands at 1291 accessions and offers a unique snapshot of genetic diversity and geographic distribution in wheat prior to modern plant breeding and the green revolution. In more recent times a renewed interest in characterising and utilising the genetic variation within this collection resulted in the stabilisation through SSD of 826 lines. A recent publication of a 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 (Wingen et al. 2014).

Watkins Collection Passport Data


Bansal UK, Singh D, Miah H, Park RF, Bariana HS (2008) Revisiting old landraces of wheat for stem rust resistance. In: Appels R; Eastwood R; Lagudah E; Langridge P; Mackay M; McIntyre L; Sharp P (eds) Proc 11th Int Wheat Genet Symp, University of Sydney Press
NSW, Australia, Vol 1:188-190.

Claude PP, Dyck PL, Evans LE (1986) An evaluation of 391 spring wheat introductions for resistance to stem rust and leaf rust. Canadian Journal Plant Pathology, V8: 132-139.

Kolmer JA (1996) Genetics of resistance to wheat leaf rust. Annual Review Phytopathology, v34: 435-455.

Miller, TE, Ambrose, MJ, Reader, S. (2001) The Watkins collection of landrace derived wheats. In: Wheat Taxonomy: The legacy of John Percival. Eds. P.D.S. Caligari and P.E. Brandham. The Linnean Special issue No. 3: 113-120.  Publ. Academic Press.