November 15, 2011

For 57 years, the late Norm Taylor traveled the world collecting and obtaining clover seeds. As a result, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture clover breeder’s seed collection had the most diversity of clover species of any collection in the world.

The UK Department of Plant and Soil Sciences donated Taylor’s collection to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in February 2011. The Norman L. Taylor University of Kentucky Clover Collection was designated a special collection by the USDA’s National Plant Germplasm System. The USDA Agricultural Research Service keeps the collection of annual species at the Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit in Griffin, Ga. and the perennials at their Western Regional Plant Introduction Station in Pullman, Wash.

Glen Aiken, USDA-ARS agronomist and animal scientist, facilitated the transfer of Taylor’s seed collection.

“Maintaining a seed collection takes a lot of time, and if a collection’s not taken care of, over time the seeds lose their viability,” said Aiken, who is also an adjunct professor in the UK Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. “We knew we needed to maintain his collection, and the USDA had the manpower to do so.”

Taylor spent his career working to increase people’s knowledge and understanding of the genus Trifolium, which contains all the clover species, and developing improved red clover cultivars. Taylor wanted to collect seed from every species of Trifolium. His collection included 196 of the 245 known clover species, 1,147 accessions or seed populations collected in different parts of the world, and 1,929 inventories or seeds grown from those accessions.

“We knew the Taylor collection was a real treasure, and we wanted to keep it safe and have Norm’s legacy live on,” said Gary Pederson, USDA-ARS research leader of the Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit. “The beauty of this collection was the accessions of several obscure species.”

The Taylor collection added 229 new accessions and 57 additional accessions thought to be lost forever to the U.S. clover collection. During his career, Taylor was responsible for adding 44 new Trifolium species to the U.S. clover collection. The Taylor collection also provided additional seed for hundreds of existing accessions, increasing their availability to researchers and educators from around the world.

Some of the Taylor collection is already available to researchers and educators. A number of the accessions have very few seeds; Pederson and others are working to build up their inventories, so they, too, can be available.

Eventually the USDA will set up two websites dedicated to perennials and annuals of the Taylor clover collection.

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