Fruit and vegetable growers who have to contend with drought, floods, viruses and other pest problems have a genetic ally in an Agricultural Research Service laboratory in Griffin, Ga.

There, the ARS Plant Genetic Resources Conservation Unit (PGRCU) serves as an invaluable resource for farmers facing tough growing conditions. PGRCU, part of the National Plant Germplasm System (NPGS), maintains a varied collection of plant genetic resources, including legumes, sweet potatoes, peppers, squash, annual clover, eggplant and sorghum, among others. The unit holds more than 82,000 plant samples called accessions.

In the last three years, PGRCU has sent more than 110,000 plant germplasm samples to domestic and foreign growers and to researchers. By maintaining a repository of plant germplasm, it's possible for varieties used in the past in similar environmental conditions to be used now or in the future, as conditions dictate.