A ‘reference set’ is a sub-sample of existing germplasm collections that facilitates and enables access to existing crop diversity for desired traits, such as drought tolerance or resistance to disease or pests.
While germplasm banks may have been originally conceived purely for conservation, breeders now realise the high value of also studying these collections and how they perform in different conditions, because genetic variation allows plans to adapt and blossom in harsh environments. For this reason, collections of crops and their wild cousins are a valuable source of new genes for agriculture. To bring this diversity down from the shelf for breeding, in Phase I (2004–2008), GCP-supported researchers analysed naturally occurring genetic diversity for 19 important food crops.
For more details see ‘Our history’ as well as the and brochure below.