What we do - International Genebank

Our Work

The Crop Trust is working to safeguard crop diversity, forever.

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Our work

The Crop Trust is funding the world’s most important genebanks, but our work does not end there. We maintain the ultimate failsafe for these and other collections in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, backing up seeds from almost every country beneath the arctic permafrost against an uncertain future.

We race to rescue crop diversity in danger of disappearing forever. We pursue conservation and use of the wild cousins of our food crops. And we help develop a new generation of information technologies to make the world’s crop diversity searchable and accessible wherever it is needed.

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What we do - Conserving Forever
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Conserving forever

The Crop Trust currently has oversight and financial responsibility for eleven global genebanks through the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) for Managing and Sustaining Crop Collections. Held in trust for the world, these are among the most comprehensive and widely used collections of crop diversity. 

The CRP complements the existing long-term grants already provided by the Crop Trust to most of these genebanks, but has greatly enlarged the Crop Trust’s role and helped to ensure funding is adequate and predictable until the endowment is complete.

While the CRP is a five-year program, the Crop Trust – as always – takes a much longer-term view. It is working with the CGIAR Consortium and donors so that by the end of the program in 2016, the endowment will be able to fund 100% of the operating costs of the CGIAR genebanks. The CRP is a substantial step towards a global system for the conservation of crop diversity designed to last forever.

What we do - Seed Vault
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The Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Deep inside a mountain on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago, halfway between the northern-most tip of mainland Norway and the North Pole, lies the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

This is a fail-safe, last chance backup facility for the world’s crop diversity. It currently holds more than 830,000 samples of crop diversity from more than 60 institutions, and nearly every country in the world.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust maintains the Vault in partnership with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resources Center, which is responsible for its management and operation. The International Advisory Council of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault has been developed to act as a guiding committee.

Visit the global Seed Vault

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Rescuing Crop Diversity

From 2007-2012, the Crop Trust implemented activities to overcome a number of serious constraints to the development of a rational and efficient global system for the conservation of crop diversity in genebanks.

As part of the project Securing the Biological Basis of Agriculture and Promoting New and Fuller Use of Crop Genetic Resources, nearly 80,000 varieties of crop diversity were rescued in 88 countries and 143 institutes, and safety duplicated under the terms of the International Treaty. This was the biggest biological rescue operation ever. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Grains Research and Development Corporation of Australia supported these activities.

What we do - Crop wild relatives
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Crop Wild Relatives

Crop wild relatives (CWR) are the un-domesticated cousins of our crops. These wild plants, living under the pressures of their natural environments, but threatened in many places, hold great potential to help crops adapt to pests, diseases and adverse climatic conditions. They can also make crops more productive, and more nutritious.

The Crop Trust and its partner, the Millennium Seed Bank of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, have embarked on a global effort to collect, conserve and use the wild relatives of 29 crops of global importance to food security. The 10-year project Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Collecting, Protecting and Preparing Crop Wild Relatives, a USD 50 million initiative funded by the government of Norway, is the most systematic and comprehensive ever bid to conserve the world’s crop wild relatives on a global scale.

The project will ensure that collected seed can be crossed with existing varieties, a process known as “prebreeding,” to see if the traits of interest can then be introduced effectively into domesticated plants. Once this is done, the diversity is available to all plant breeders, everywhere.

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Information Systems

Ensuring the effective use of crop diversity depends on long-term, ready access not just to the diversity itself, but also to any information that exists about it.

The Crop Trust has worked with Bioversity and the International Treaty to develop Genesys, an online portal bringing together information from genebanks worldwide. This user-friendly window into some of the more than 7 millions samples of crop diversity stored around the world allows breeders, researchers and other users to search multiple genebank databases on multiple criteria, and acquire genetic resources simply and efficiently.

The Crop Trust has also supported, in close partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture, the development of the GRIN-Global genebank data management software. We are committed to supporting national genebanks around the world in upgrading their documentation systems, including through adopting GRIN-Global, and sharing their information on Genesys, thus contributing to a truly global conservation system.

We also work with the International Treaty to facilitate the DivSeek partnership, an initiative that aims to unleash the full potential of crop diversity to accelerate the rate of crop improvement by linking samples in genebanks with the ever-expanding mass of genomic data that next generation biotechnologies are generating. We do this through the promotion of common data standards and best practices.

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