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CGIAR germplasm distribution and use


The activities of the Genebank Platform are targeted specifically to bring about increased conservation and use of genetic resources with the aim of achieving United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 2.5. In 2019, a total of 79,633 germplasm samples (67,864 accessions) were distributed by the CGIAR genebanks to users. Of these, 45,941 (58%) were distributed to recipients outside CGIAR in 97 countries and 33,692 samples (42%) were provided to CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs). For the third year in a row, germplasm distribution outside CGIAR exceeded that inside CGIAR. Developing countries received the largest proportion of germplasm (83%) (Figure 1).


Progress on germplasm availability and safety duplication


By the end of 2019, CGIAR genebanks were managing 760,467 accessions, including 25,811 in vitro accessions and 32,995 accessions held as plants or trees in screenhouses or fields. Approximately 78% of total accessions were immediately available for international distribution. Of the seed accessions, 60% were secured in safety duplication at two levels and 77% were duplicated at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault (SGSV). A total of 72% of clonal crop collections were safely duplicated in the form of cryopreserved or in vitro cultures.


Acting on gaps in collections


Gaps in collection coverage for 22 crop genepools were identified using a combination of taxonomic, geographic and trait-based analyses, involving consultations with more than 60 experts and 375 scientific papers. Preliminary assessments highlight where the coverage in the collections managed by CGIAR is global and where crops or countries are underrepresented. Efforts were underway to address identified gaps in ex situ conservation.

In 2019, the International Potato Center (CIP), working in partnership with national agricultural research systems (NARS), brought 144 sweetpotato landraces from Ghana, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Uganda into disease-free in vitro culture; the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) collected 152 new accessions of Bambara groundnut and yam from northern Cameroon; Alliance Bioversity International-International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with research institutes in the Cook Islands, Samoa and Papua New Guinea to secure the conservation of rare orange-fleshed Pacific Island banana varieties; the International Center for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) collected traditional landraces in Lebanon and Tajikistan; and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) collected more than 3,000 accessions of indigenous grains and legume crops in Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Kenya.

In addition, Alliance Bioversity International-CIAT collaborated with Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (EMBRAPA) to rescue threatened wild cassava materials and IITA is working with the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS) and partners in Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi to rescue 163 accessions of unique cassava diversity not currently represented in ex situ conservation.


Germplasm Health Units (GHUs)


In 2019, the GHUs health-tested 152,469 samples facilitating 2,004 exchanges of materials with 141 countries. CRPs account for 52% of the exchange events. A core part of the GHU activities under the Genebank Platform is to remove bottlenecks slowing the rate of health testing. In a joint project between Alliance Bioversity International-CIAT, CIP and IITA, for instance, the GHUs are developing a method using small RNA sequencing and assembly (sRSA) for more effective and faster virus indexing of clonally propagated crops.


Policy module


The Policy module explored possibilities for promoting the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the agricultural sector in general in the context of the development of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

In 2019, the Policy module developed a submission to the CBD’s Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, arguing that it is important for Contracting Parties to promote and monitor implementation of both the Plant Treaty and the Nagoya Protocol and overcome historical divisions between the agriculture and environment sectors that inhibit progress on the SDGs. The Policy module also organized a side event with the Plant Treaty Secretariat, United Nations Environment Programme, and other organizations to highlight the same points.

Figure 1. Samples distributed by each Center to users outside CGIAR and geographical region of recipients in 2019.

Figure 2. Preliminary assessment of the coverage of traditional landraces in collections managed by CGIAR based on mapping accessions onto diversity trees. Colors correspond to numbers of accessions representing identified landrace end-groups or varieties making up the crop genepool.


Header photo: A cross of selected clones with local varieties and advanced adopted CIP-bred breeding clones with heat tolerance in  Huancayo, Peru. Photo by M. Major/Crop Trust.