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plant breeders

USDA Seeks Variety to Help American Agriculture Flourish

While most of the country is braving cold and blustery winter conditions, farmers and gardeners are busy looking ahead to the spring. They are contemplating the variety of seeds or the plants that they will use. The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) increases the options for our farmers, gardeners, and plant breeders by making sure there is an abundance of varieties available.

We do this through our Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO), which grants certificates of intellectual property protection to developers of new plant varieties. These certificates enable breeders to market their variety exclusively for 20 years. The protection is an incentive for the development of new and improved varieties.

USDA Plant Breeding Community Strengthens Efforts

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The average consumer might not think about it, but for decades, USDA plant breeding research has been producing varieties that have been helping feed the world and preserve the environment. We know that you look for the plumpest, juiciest strawberries at your neighborhood market, so USDA plant breeding scientists worked to find the genes to make them taste even better.  And to help farmers in Northern climates produce more food for our tables, USDA plant breeding researchers developed corn that would mature early before the bitter cold arrived. This important work plays a significant role in our lives and USDA hopes to build on all these positive outcomes to make sure even more keep coming.  Therefore, to coordinate work on plant breeding and maximize the results from ever more limited resources, USDA formed a new Plant Breeding Working Group (PBWG) earlier this year.

Plant Variety Protection Growing Faster, Better and Online

Plant breeders use certificates of intellectual property rights protection as an important marketing tool. The Plant Variety Protection Office (PVPO), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is a user fee funded program that grants these certificates after careful and detailed review. Breeders of new plant varieties hold the certificates exclusively for 20 years. That benefit creates an incentive for the plant and seed industry to develop new varieties. Since 1970, PVPO has issued more than 8,700 certificates.

Sometimes offering a great service can also create problems, such as customer requests stacking up. That is exactly what happened to PVPO which found itself with a backlog of pending applications. The program took the issue head on by initiating a business process review in 2011.