Special Updated Feature on FIGS - Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy - what is available in Australia

Prepared by Ken Street, Sally Norton, Brett Lobsey and Julie Nicol

In the last Newsletter (June 2017) the Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy (FIGS) was introduced as tool to help efficiently mine genebanks for novel variation in landrace and wild material to use in plant breeding and research.  Basically, the strategy sets out to improve the probability of capturing user defined adaptive traits in small “best-bet” subsets of landraces or wild material conserved in genebanks.  This reduces the cost associated with evaluating large sets of germplasm selected using a “shot gun” or core collection approach to germplasm selection.

FIGS is based on the Darwinian principal of natural selection. That is, the presence of adaptive traits within a plant population, in this case landraces, primitives or wild relatives of crop plants, will be influenced by long-term environmental factors such as climate, and soil conditions.

The FIGS process works by using environmental data associated with germplasm collection sites to “predict” where certain traits are most likely to have emerged due to selection pressures imposed by the environmental conditions.  Specialized GIS and statistical tools are used to do this.

A full link to FIGS and their use can be found HERE

How FIGS works

The work to develop and deploy FIGS is supported by GRDC.  The research has been headed by ICARDA with collaborators from the Australian genetic resources community and other collaborators overseas.

Who supports FIGS?

An updated summary of the FIGS sets available in Australia (at the AGG) is provided below for a number of crops and traits.

The full UPDATED information is available HERE

Note: For any given table below, the number of unique accessions may be less than the table totals because some accessions are members of multiple trait sets. 

What do we currently know and have in Australia?

So far over 21,400 accessions belonging to FIGS sets have been distributed from the winter cereals collection and the temperate legumes collections to the local user community as indicated in the table below.

Number of FIGS set accessions distributed

Crop Accessions
Total 21,443
Chickpea 1,669
Faba bean 175
Lentil 1,327
Field Pea 232
Wheat 16,185
Barley 1,855

*total distribution: includes cases of multiple dispatches per accession

How many FIG accessions have been distributed in Australia?

While research to refine the predictive power of FIGS is ongoing it is routinely deployed in the hunt for previously undiscovered traits and for genetic variation of current traits required by the plant breeding community.  The following table details some of the discoveries that have been reported back to the genebank by researchers supplied with relatively small subsets of ICARDA germplasm:

Trait variation discovered using FIGS

Crop Trait
Barley Barley yellow dwarf virus
Barley Powdery mildew
Barley Net Blotch – net form
Barley Net blotch – spot form
Barley Russian wheat aphid
Wheat Russian wheat aphid
Wheat Sunn pest
Wheat Powdery mildew
Wheat Stem rust
Wheat Yellow rust
Wheat Salinity
Wheat Boron
Chickpea, Lentil Beet western yellows virus
Chickpea, Lentil Chickpea chlorotic stunt virus
Chickpea, Lentil Alfalfa mosaic virus
Chickpea, lentil Beet yellow mosaic virus
Chickpea Leaf miner
Lentil Heat tolerance
Faba bean Drought tolerance

Note: for specific confirmed accessions refer to  the downloadable EXCEL file

Has FIGS actually help find valuable trait sources?

While research to refine the predictive power of FIGS is ongoing it is routinely deployed in the hunt for previously undiscovered traits and for genetic

ICARDA distributes over 30,000 accessions annually (less since the Syrian conflict) and as it leads the FIG research it routinely deploys FIGS to select material requested for trait discovery purposes (most requests).

In this context, GRDC projects that involve offshore evaluation of landraces conserved in the ICARDA genebank benefit from having access to sets of material selected using FIGS.

The following tables detail FIGS sets developed for on-going GRDC linked projects operating out of ICARDA.  For further information contact Ken Street kenstreet93@yahoo.com

Chickpea FIGS sets supplied to GRDC project 1CA0011

Trait Accessions
Total 1200
Ascochyta blight 200
Botrytis grey mould 200
Fusarium wilt 200
Drought 200
Cold 200
Salinity 200

Barley FIGS sets supplied to GRDC project 1CA0010

Trait Accessions
Total 2045
Barley stem gall midge 339
Barley yellow mosaic virus 200
Net blotch 306
Powdery mildew 200
Stem rust 200
Yellow rust 200
Drought 200
Cold 200
Salinity 200

Chickpea and Lentil FIGS sets supplied to the ICARDA Viral lab DAN00140

Trait Accessions
Total 274*
Beet western yellow virus 274
Chickpea chlorotic stunt virus 274
Alfalfa mosaic virus 274

*Same sets tested for all viruses

Offshore evaluations using FIGS which are of relevance to Australia

Many Australian collaborators have received FIG accessions and if you have evaluated then it is of utmost importance to share the results with the genebank when you are finished.  This data is invaluable, not only help refine the FIGS process, but also allows the germplasm curator to build a more complete picture of what useful material is sitting in the genebank.  This in term allows them to better service the user community.    Please kindly contact Brett Lobsey to share your data   brett.lobsey@industry.nsw.gov.au

Data Needed

The FIGS sets conserved in the AGG are available to the Australian scientific community upon request. You can make a request to the genebank by contacting Sally Norton  sally.norton@ecodev.vic.gov.au

If you would like to discuss if or not FIGS could be used to identify germplasm that suites your research needs then you can contact kenstreet93@yahoo.com

Ordering FIGS sets
Special FIGS feature