The collection consists of Avena (oat), Hordeum (barley) and Triticum (wheat). The small grain cereal collection originated mostly from the former Foundation for Agricultural Plant Breeding (SVP) and the Department of Plant Breeding of the Agricultural University of Wageningen (IVP).
Additional material was obtained from other, mainly Dutch, institutions and private breeding companies. The three cereal collections receive nowadays less emphasis in the genetic resources activities of CGN as the focus of CGN since 2005 is on vegetables. Detailed information on the cereal collections have been published by (Van Soest and Boukema 1995). In 2010-2011 a search has been carried out to identify accessions which originally had been received from collections of IPK, Gatersleben and USDA National Germplasm System. The respective curators have been consulted and the assurance was given that the duplicated accessions are being maintained and are available from their collections. In 2011 a total of 1620 accessions of Triticum, Hordeum and Avena (N=742, 848 and 140 respectively) have been removed from the CGN cereals collection and are being stored as archive collection at -20 °C.
Since the collections have been established, the seed for germplasm exchange has been stored at + 4 °C. Around 2012 a few users complained that the germination of some of this material had dropped considerably. In order to determine the extent of the problem, tests have been carried out on wheat and barley material regenerated in different years. The results have been published in a paper by Van Treuren et al. (2018). Rapid loss of seed viability in ex situ conserved wheat and barley at 4 °C as compared to –20 °C storage. The conclusion was that the viability of the seed stored in 4 °C before 1990 had dropped significantly, particularly the wheat material. CGN took the measure to also store all user material from the small grains collections in deep freezers. Above this, seed of wheat accessions, stored at 4 °C before 1990 has been replaced with seed stored at -20 °C.