The ICRAF Genetic Resources Unit has a global role to collect, conserve, document, characterize and distribute a diverse collection of agroforestry trees. The ICRAF seed bank in Nairobi and field genebanks in the regions ensure the supply of superior tree germplasm for research and conserve material for the benefit of present and future generations. Genetic resources databases such as Agroforestree provide relevant information on agroforestry trees such as taxonomy, uses, site suitability and sources of seed as well as information on the ICRAF Genebank collection.
GRU participates in research that aims to fill information gaps that promote the use of quality tree germplasm for improved livelihoods and resilient landscapes. At the ICRAF Genebank, tree germplasm is conserved in accordance to international standards and is distributed to ICRAF research programs, research partners and to direct users including farmers. For requests that cannot be fulfilled, genebank staff guide requesters to potential sources of quality germplasm.
ICRAF Genebank is endowed with the global mandate of conserving high-quality Tree Genetic Resources (TGRs). This is achieved through a diverse collecting, documenting, conserving, characterizing and distributing the TGRs for conservation and use. Of the eleven (11) CGIAR Genebanks, It’s the only one conserving Tree genetic resources with a rich diversity of approx. 250 tree species conserved in seed and field Genebanks where:-
The World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) maintains a seed genebank at the Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya that conserves a wide diversity of tree species used in agroforestry systems to ensure their long term availability.
The genebank currently holds 6,336 accessions representing about 190 tree species used in agroforestry systems. This collection was acquired through donations from various institutes such as Oxford Forestry Institute, and germplasm collection missions conducted jointly with national agricultural research systems (NARS), universities and international institutes in species natural distribution range. The genebank has a laboratory for conducting seed research, a short-term holding facility for drying maintained at 15ºC and 40–45% RH, and medium-term storage at 4ºC and 40-45% RH that holds the active collection. For long term conservation and safety duplication, ICRAF partners with the Millennium Seed Bank at Kew in the United Kingdom, and the Kunming Institute of Botany genebank in China. The ICRAF genebank also has over 700 accessions representing 165 tree species held at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. The genebank is instrumental in the supply of agroforestry tree germplasm for ICRAF domestication programs and to research partners. Small samples of available agroforestry tree seeds are offered for research (download seed request form). The genebank assists sourcing for bulk requests from national partners where the species may be available. Being a signatory to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, ICRAF genebank distributes the agroforestry seeds via theStandard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA). The genebank disseminates species specific information in GENESYS.
Tree species producing seed that cannot tolerate drying and cold storage, and for species that true-to-type germplasm is required are maintained as living collections in field genebanks. [hyperlink to map] In addition, the genebank maintains breeding seed orchards for species for landscape restoration initiatives. More than 17,000 accessions of 81 species are conserved at 49 field sites based on ecological suitability in 18 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Field genebanks serve various functions: germplasm conservation, evaluation for descriptive or useful traits, germplasm multiplication and distribution, working collections for basic research, as well as providing opportunities for public education and contributing to the global tree cover.
The Genebank undertakes morphological characterisation of seed and tree accessions. It collaborates with the Molecular Laboratory for genetic characterisation, and with various partners for nutritional and phytochemical characterisation.
The main goal of characterizing accessions is to enhance the value of the collection for increased utilization of germplasm as well as ensuring that unique germplasm is conserved by:
Evaluation: The genebank carries out assessments of agronomic traits that are important to tree domestication and improvement. Evaluation generates data that enables the genebank to match users with the most suitable accessions or with information that allows them to select the right species and accessions for their needs.