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The need to conserve crop diversity within a rational, efficient global system has been recognized in various international agreements, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The Crop Trust’s work responds to this urgent call to action.
We fund the world’s most important genebanks from the Crop Diversity Endowment Fund, which is at the heart of the Crop Trust’s task, but our work does not end there. The Crop Trust also implements projects to address gaps in the global system for the conservation of crop diversity that closely complement the work funded by the endowment.
Crop wild relatives—the scraggly, rugged cousins of our cultivated crops—may well hold the secrets to climate resilient crop varieties, but this natural diversity has never been fully explored. Launched by the Crop Trust in 2011 and funded by the Government of Norway, the Crop Wild Relatives Project is a long-term effort global to collect, conserve and use crop wild relatives to develop food crops that don’t just survive but thrive under climate change.
Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods and Development (BOLD) is a groundbreaking 10-year project to strengthen food and nutrition security worldwide by supporting the conservation and use of crop diversity. Funded by the Government of Norway and launched in 2021, it builds on the work and achievements of the Crop Wild Relatives Project (2011- 2021). The project comprises five major components: genebank capacity and resource development, making new diversity available through pre-breeding, strengthening seed systems, safeguarding seed collections, and building connections and sharing outcomes.
Since 2005, the Crop Trust has stepped in on a number of occasions to help genebanks around the world facing emergency situations. This has included contributing to international efforts to preserve thousands of seeds whose survival was threatened by the civil war in Syria in 2011.
In November 2021, the Crop Trust and the Plant Treaty Secretariat launched an Emergency Reserve to provide a financial lifeline to genebanks facing urgent threats to their precious contents. The Reserve, which is the first of its kind, will respond to urgent requests from genebanks in low- and middle-income countries to prevent catastrophic loss of their collections.
The Crop Trust supports and funds the world’s most important crop collections through the CGIAR Genebank Platform, a partnership with CGIAR to manage and provide sustainable support for the crop collections held at CGIAR Centers until the end of 2021. It ensures that the genebanks meet international standards, improve efficiency and ensure more effective use within an enabling policy environment.
Over the past 15 years, the Crop Trust has facilitated the development of 26 global crop conservation strategies by crop experts and other stakeholders around the world. With support from the German government, the Crop Trust is now expanding and updating these strategies to guide the future of ex situ conservation of crop diversity, in support of the work of the Plant Treaty and the Global Plan of Action.
Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa face the combined challenges of climate change, malnutrition and a growing population. The Crop Trust leads Seeds for Resilience, a project supporting five national genebanks in Africa to conserve and share their seed collections with both farmers and scientists to improve food security in the region
Grasspea and finger millet are important food crops in some of the world’s most food-insecure areas, but are unfortunately under-researched. Funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation, the Crop Trust is leading an effort to help improve the productivity of these prized crops by making more of their natural genetic diversity available to crop scientists.
Collections of crop diversity exist to be actively used, and to be used, data about the material held in genebanks needs to be of as high a quality, and as easily accessible, as the seeds themselves. Enter Genesys: the online one-stop database of information on genebank material.
With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Australia’s Grains Research and Development Corporation, the Crop Trust completed what has been described as the largest and most successful biological rescue mission ever. Nearly 80,000 unique seed and vegetative samples of crops from 77 countries were saved, duplicated in a second genebank and backed-up at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, after an analysis of the constraints faced by crop collections around the world identified the most at-risk material.