International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)

Genetic Resources Section

ICARDA manages diverse collections of barley and wheat, grain legumes and forages, mostly traditional landraces and wild species from the Fertile Crescent.

GRS website

Once working out of Syria, the genebank has relocated to Morocco and Lebanon in the past years. Morocco stores cultivated species of wheat, barley, chickpea and lentil while Lebanon stores faba bean and grasspea and wild relatives of cereals and legumes. The genebank also holds more than 1,380 accessions of Rhizobium strains, vital for enabling legumes to make use of atmospheric nitrogen and increase soil fertility.

The ICARDA genebank helped develop a new methodology, known as Focused Identification of Germplasm Strategy (FIGS), to give breeders and other researchers a better chance to find useful traits within a large number of accessions. The Genetic Resources Section also conducts pre-breeding activities, for example the introgression of genes from wild species to help broaden the genetic base of wheat.

ICARDA has built a unique capacity to regenerate crop wild relatives with more than 200 isolation cages in Lebanon.

The genebank has also re-established the capacity to carry out routine germplasm health testing.

Faba bean
Forage grasses
Forage legumes

Status of ICARDA genebank according to performance targets

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2016 2017
Accessions 155,205 156,721
Availability 59% 59%
Safety duplication 50% 29%
Passport Data Completeness Index (Average) 5.75 6.76

ICARDA genebank by the numbers

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Full-time staff equivalents 20.6
Date to reach performance targets Barley & wheat 2021; grain legumes 2021; forages 2023
Projected accession numbers in 2022 Barley & wheat 80,340; grain legumes 47,175; forages 37,135

ICARDA staff at the crop genetic resources collection in the new Terbol facility in Lebanon. This collection contains the world’s largest collection of wild cereals including barley, wheat, lentil and grasspea. Credit: Shawn Landersz