ILRI’s genebank, which is responsible for forages and some dual-purpose crops, is housed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The collection is perhaps the most taxonomically diverse in Genesys. The collection holds more than 1000 species and the 20 most numerous species account for well under a third (29%) of more than 20,000 accessions. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of the accessions (97%) are wild species rather than cultivars or landraces.
The genebank has distributed more than 10,000 samples to 40 countries. About 900 accessions are regenerated and multiplied each year.
Characterization of forages at ILRI looks in detail at phenotypic variation, particularly in nutritional traits, and resistance to pests and diseases. The goal is to identify accessions that offer better performance for use as part of sustainable farming systems and as best bets for further evaluation and possible improvement.
To promote the use of forages throughout sub-Saharan Africa, ILRI’s genebank operates a Herbage Seed Unit that offers training to national scientists and technicians and provides starter quantities of selected seed for multiplication and distribution.
ILRI and CIAT created the Tropical Forages Database, an online version of an interactive selection tool that helps researchers, farmers and their advisers to find the most appropriate forages. ILRI is currently developing a new online searchable database which should be available in early 2017.
More than a quarter (28.6%) of the accessions are safety duplicated at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, with other safety duplicates held in Australia, the United Kingdom and at CIAT in Colombia.