ICARDA’s gene banks contain some 153,000 samples of major winter cereals, food legumes, and forage and rangeland species drawn from the ‘Fertile Crescent’ in Western Asia, the Abyssinian highlands in Ethiopia, and the Nile Valley, where the earliest known crop domestication practices were first recorded. Many plants are now extinct in their natural habitats.
Over the past four decades the program’s improved cereal and legume varieties have been released by national programs in partnership with ICARDA, and adopted by farmers worldwide. It is estimated these varieties generate net benefits of approximately 850 million USD each year.
ICARDA also enhances the timely production and distribution of good seed. Efforts with national partners include fast-tracking seed variety testing and release; accelerated seed multiplication; strengthening national capacity for seed multiplication; and investing in agricultural extension. A Seed Health Laboratory ensures that seed distributed by ICARDA is heathy and free of pathogens and pests.
Selected research impacts:
Focused identification of germplasm strategy (FIGS): a scientific approach to mining agricultural gene banks speed the pace of research innovation and help breeding programs identify useful traits in plant genetics more efficiently.
Heat-tolerant wheat varieties: high-yielding and heat-tolerant wheat varieties are convincing African policymakers that a viable solution to the continent’s growing dependence on imported wheat is domestic production.
Tackling stripe rust disease: To combat Ethiopia’s wheat stripe rust epidemic a fast-track crop research and rust-resistant seed distribution program not only delivered future protection to farmers but also brought higher yields and incomes.