Research & Impact

Germplasm Resource Unit (GRU)

The Germplasm Resources Unit (GRU) is an internationally recognised repository for the long-term curation and provision of UK strategic crop and crop-wild-relative germplasm resources.

The facility is a National Capability supported directly by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

The seed collections are housed within a purpose-built highly accessible facility maintained at 4°C and 8% relative humidity with 600 cubic meters of storage capacity. These storage conditions ensure high seed viability for 20-50 years.

The GRU host some of the most comprehensive wheat, barley, oat and pea collections in the world, which form part of the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

The collections are managed by SeedStor, an in-house developed state-of-the-art public database.

To support key BBSRC strategic objectives relating to food security through sustainable crop production, the Germplasm Resource Unit is actively engaged in a collaborative effort to bridge the gap between the plant science and plant breeding communities.

We store germplasm core collections which represents the global natural variation of highly important cultivated species and their wild relatives. In addition, we curate and further develop new derived variation originated from scientific studies and from breeding programs.

The natural variation, wild relatives and derived material are used to develop pre-breeding material in close collaboration with UK breeding industries and researchers dedicated to germplasm development.

The Germplasm Resource Unit regularly monitors the local trends in the crop breeding industries to effectively curate the most relevant material and to proactively offer it to breeders.

Using the most suitable plant material is crucial for the success of many studies.

While some scientific questions can be addressed using an existing diversity, many scientific endeavours require the development of an ad hoc variation.

The Germplasm Resource Unit collaborates internationally with various research groups to develop new variations which can better address some of the most exciting questions in the fields of evolution, crop domestication plant response to stresses and gene discovery.

The effectiveness of the Germplasm Resource Unit collections is enhanced by SeedStor, an inhouse purpose developed information management system and user orientated searchable database system.

The impact of the Germplasm Resource Unit

The demand for the Germplasm Resource Unit material is constantly growing. In 2017 we recorded 580 inquiries, out of which about a quarter were advisory service and 75% were seed requests.

While the Germplasm Resource Unit main service is seed distribution from our public collections, we are also engaged in liaising between governmental authorities and plant scientists to ensure legal, swift, and safe seed distribution in accordance with national regulation and international treaties.

About 23% of the public enquiries fall under this remit. In recent years, about 15% of the requests came from the industrial sector, 72% from the plant science community and the rest from educational sector and hobby growers.

Currently, the two most active collections are the John Innes Centre pea collection and the BBSRC core wheat collection.