26) Global Trust funds ICRISAT’s Genebank

The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has entered into an agreement with the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT), to ensure the long-term availability of funds for the conservation, characterization and distribution of germplasm (seeds) in the ICRISAT's Genebank for the benefit of agriculture and food security for mankind.

Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT, and Prof Cary Fowler, Executive Director of the GCDT, signed the agreement, recently during the Annual General Meeting of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) at Beijing, China.

Under the agreement, the Trust will commit US$ 8 million and ICRISAT US$ 2 million, totaling an endowment of US$ 10 million. The proceeds from the endowment will be used for genetic resources conservation and management activities at ICRISAT. As per the agreement, the endowment's support for the sorghum germplasm collection will begin in 2007, pearl millet from 2008 and chickpea in 2009, to be followed by other ICRISAT mandate crops. The aim is to raise at least US$ 450,000 per year as return from the endowment to meet critical operational needs such as regeneration, characterization, conservation and viability testing for the crop collections held in trust at ICRISAT.

According to Dr William Dar, the long-term partnership with the GCDT, an international fund established to ensure conservation and availability of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, will ensure that there is steady financial support to ICRISAT's genebank.

ICRISAT holds more than 118,000 accessions of germplasm for pearl millet, sorghum, chickpea, groundnut, pigeonpea and 6 small millets in its genebank, Dr Dar added. “This global treasure holds the genetic material to overcome some of the future breeding bottlenecks and can help breeders develop varieties that can overcome drought, pest and disease infestations.”

According to Dr CLL Gowda, ICRISAT's Global Theme Leader for Crop Improvement, the genetic resources at ICRISAT are to be preserved for eternity. This is a big responsibility that the Center is shouldering, to ensure that the genetic resources are conserved safely and will be available for the future generations.

“This requires continuous funding support to ensure that the material is regenerated, safely conserved and supplied to researchers globally. And this is where GCDT's support has great significance for us,” Dr Gowda added.

Through the agreement ICRISAT and GCDT will conserve and make available the ICRISAT-held collections through:

  • Long-term storage, management and curation of germplasm;
  • Safe duplication of the collection;
  • Characterization and evaluation of germplasm;
  • Documentation of the germplasm and provision of data in publicly-available documentation systems;
  • Distribution of the germplasm in accordance with the International Treaty;
  • Providing training and capacity building;
  • Partnering with other genebanks and networks; and

With the committed continuous support from GCDT, ICRISAT's germplasm collection holds the future for dryland agriculture in the developing countries.

For further information, contact Dr CLL Gowda at c(dot)gowda(at)cgiar(dot)org or Dr HD Upadhyaya at h(dot)upadhyaya(at)cgiar(dot)org.

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