Under the direction of the UF/IFAS Dean of Research and the Director of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station (FAES), the Germplasm Office supports UF/IFAS plant breeders in evaluating and releasing new plant cultivars developed at UF.
The FAES, created in 1887 by the Hatch Act to complement the Morrill Act supporting the land-grant universities, has led UF/IFAS’s ongoing research efforts to provide the knowledge base to sustain and advance agricultural development in Florida, the region, and beyond.
UF/IFAS plant breeders create plant varieties and germplasm with new and superior characteristics. In certain instances, subsequent field evaluations are conducted by industry cooperators under trial agreements to assess traits, such as yield, quality, disease resistance, environmental adaptability, and time to maturity.
A materials transfer agreement (MTA) is the most common trial agreement, and occasionally, collaborative research agreements or sponsored research agreements are also used. Our office participates in developing and processing various trial agreements with the primary responsibility of negotiating and managing MTAs.
When a plant line shows potential to make a significant contribution, the breeder may submit the line for release consideration. Under UF/IFAS policy, plant candidates for release must first be submitted to a departmental cultivar release advisory committee (CRAC), which conducts a rigorous scientific review of the proposed line.
If the CRAC recommends the line for release, it is then submitted for consideration to the UF/IFAS cultivar release committee (CRC), which consists of nine voting members. The CRC submits its recommendation to the FAES Director, who has final responsibility for granting approval for release. The germplasm office works to ensure proper documentation and reviews are completed before a plant line is presented for release approval. New plant cultivars may be publicly released or assigned to Florida Foundation Seed Producers, Inc. (FFSP), for intellectual property protection and commercialization.
Currently, more than 20 UF/IFAS researchers are actively engaged in breeding more than 30 different crops. Departmental CRACs are organized as needed, and the UF/IFAS CRC meets quarterly.
Over the past 10 years, UF/IFAS has released an average of 30 cultivars annually. Our collaboration with public organizations and Florida’s agricultural industries has been strong, manifested by steadily growing demand in MTA requests—reaching 100 in 2012.
Our office works together with FFSP, UF’s Office of Technology Licensing, UF’s Office of General Counsel and UF’s Division of Sponsored Research to promote and facilitate germplasm research and release new cultivars to aid global food security and better human lives.