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International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

Forages Genebank

ILRI’s genebank collection of nearly 20,000 forage accessions is the most diverse in terms of species.

ILRI researcher, Elise Schieck, in laboratory
ILRI researcher, Elise Schieck, in laboratory. Credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu
Two ILRI genebank staff plant and label cuttings of Napier grass, received from EMBRAPA, Brazil into pots.
Two ILRI genebank staff plant and label cuttings of Napier grass, received from EMBRAPA, Brazil into pots. Credit: ILRI

The 20 most numerous species account for just 29% of almost 20,000 accessions. The collection holds more than 1000 species, the vast majority of which (97%) are wild species rather than cultivars or landraces.

The genebank has recently undergone major renovation to replace the aged, prefabricated structure with a fully modern genebank.

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 selected starter quantities of seed for multiplication and distribution.
Forage grasses
Forage legumes


A recap of genebank’s work at field stations in Debre Zeyit and Zwai and at the genebank at ILRI headquarters in Addis Ababa.


A tour of the genebank at ILRI’s headquarters in Addis Ababa


ILRI’s field genebank at Zwai


ILRI’s regeneration plots at Debre Zeyit

Key performance indicators of CGIAR genebanks, 2012-2019

HINT: Use the search key to filter the data. For descriptions of performance indicators, click here.
Indicator 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Base number of accessions in the collections (see description note) 18,850 18,716 18,640 18,634 18,627 18,638 18,639 18,662
Number of accessions that are viability tested, disease-free and with sufficient seed number for immediate distribution. 7,655 6,794 8,182 9,182 9,690 10,321 0 2,555
Number of seed accessions in the collections 18,850 18,716 18,640 18,634 18,627 18,638 18,639 18,662
Number of vegetatively-propagated accessions in the collections 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Number of live plant accessions 1,291 1,542 1,526 1,514 1,516 1,538 1,531 1,548
Numbers of accessions in seed collections held in long-term storage and safety duplicated in a major genebank and in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. 1,341 3,515 3,515 3,515 3,515 3,515 3,904 5,269
Number of vegetatively-propagated accessions (e.g., roots, tubers, bananas) in cryopreservation or safety duplicated as in vitro samples. 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Of the accessions that are legally and physically available, how many are wild species? 7,545 - 2,555
Base number of accessions in the collections (see description note) 18,850 18,716 18,640 18,634 18,627 18,638 18,639 18,662
Number of accessions that are viability tested, disease-free and with sufficient seed number for immediate distribution. 7,655 6,794 8,182 9,182 9,690 10,321 0 2,555
Number of seed accessions in the collections 18,850 18,716 18,640 18,634 18,627 18,638 18,639 18,662
Number of vegetatively-propagated accessions in the collections 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Number of live plant accessions 1,291 1,542 1,526 1,514 1,516 1,538 1,531 1,548
Numbers of accessions in seed collections held in long-term storage and safety duplicated in a major genebank and in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. 1,341 3,515 3,515 3,515 3,515 3,515 3,904 5,269
Number of vegetatively-propagated accessions (e.g., roots, tubers, bananas) in cryopreservation or safety duplicated as in vitro samples. 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Of the accessions that are legally and physically available, how many are wild species? 0 0 0 0 0 7,545 0 2,555

Genebank operations, 2012-2019

HINT: Use the search key to filter the data
Indicator 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Number of accessions with passport & characterization data available . . . . . . . 17,020
Number accessions received 0 52 0 0 0 0 0 0
Number accessions regenerated 0 0 82 0 0 10 130 0
Number accessions multiplied 1,036 1,074 1,220 1,037 720 802 799 1,161
Number accessions health tested 1,096 768 1,016 777 1,981 1,366 1,204 3,211
Number accessions cleaned 0 0 0 6 0 120 177 51
Number accessions viability tested 522 571 1,730 1,164 1,171 838 928 2,651
Number of accessions with passport & characterization data available . . . . . . . 17,020
Number accessions received 0 52 0 0 0 0 0 0
Number accessions regenerated 0 0 82 0 0 10 130 0
Number accessions multiplied 1,036 1,074 1,220 1,037 720 802 799 1,161
Number accessions health tested 1,096 768 1,016 777 1,981 1,366 1,204 3,211
Number accessions cleaned 0 0 0 6 0 120 177 51
Number accessions viability tested 522 571 1,730 1,164 1,171 838 928 2,651

Number of samples distributed to users within and outside the CGIAR, 2012-2019

HINT: Use the search key to filter the data. For descriptions of performance indicators, click here.
Indicator 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Total number external germplasm requests 33 37 45 19 28 26 22 27
Number of samples distributed internally within the Center and to another CGIAR Center 13 0 35 0 29 10 68 0
Number of samples distributed to users outside the CGIAR 541 1,357 1,002 474 686 1,050 364 1,077
Sum of samples distributed within and outside the CGIAR 554 1,357 1,037 474 715 1,060 432 1,077
Number of accessions distributed internally within the Center and to another CGIAR Center 12 0 35 0 29 10 68 0
Number of accessions distributed to users outside the CGIAR 470 1,062 693 350 608 888 358 1,077
Sum of accessions distributed within and outside the CGIAR 482 1,062 728 350 637 898 426 1,077
Total number external germplasm requests 33 37 45 19 28 26 22 27
Number of samples distributed internally within the Center and to another CGIAR Center 13 0 35 0 29 10 68 0
Number of samples distributed to users outside the CGIAR 541 1,357 1,002 474 686 1,050 364 1,077
Sum of samples distributed within and outside the CGIAR 554 1,357 1,037 474 715 1,060 432 1,077
Number of accessions distributed internally within the Center and to another CGIAR Center 12 0 35 0 29 10 68 0
Number of accessions distributed to users outside the CGIAR 470 1,062 693 350 608 888 358 1,077
Sum of accessions distributed within and outside the CGIAR 482 1,062 728 350 637 898 426 1,077

Publications by ILRI genebank staff in 2019

Recent publications with at least one CGIAR genebank staff as author. HINT: Use the search key to filter the data.
Authors Article title Publication name URL
Muktar M, Teshome A, Hanson J, Teressa A, Habte E, Domelevo Entfellner J, Ki-Won Lee, Jones C. Genotyping by sequencing provides new insights into the diversity of Napier grass (Cenchrus purpureus) and reveals variation in genome-wide LD patterns between collections Scientific Reports READ
Ellis R, Nasehzadeh M, Hanson J, Ndiwa N, Woldemariam Y. Medium-term seed storage of diverse genera of forage grasses, evidence-based genebank monitoring intervals, and regeneration standards Genet Resour Crop Evol READ
Habte E, Muktar M, Teressa A, Sang-Hoon Lee, Ki-Won Lee, Jones C. An overview of Teff (Eragrostis teff Zuccagni) Trotter ) as a potential summer forage crop in temperate systems Journal of The Korean Society of Grassland Science READ

Publications by ILRI genebank staff in 2018

Recent publications with at least one CGIAR genebank staff as author. HINT: Use the search key to filter the data.
Authors Article title Publication name URL
Negawo, A.T., Jorge, A., Hanson, J., Teshome, A., Muktar, M.S., Azevedo, A.L.S., Lédo, F.J.D.S., Machado, J.C., Jones, C.S. Molecular markers as a tool for germplasm acquisition to enhance the genetic diversity of a Napier grass (Pennisetum purpureum) collection. TROPICAL GRASSLANDS-FORRAJES TROPICALES READ
Kumar, A., Mulatu, F., Assefa, Y., Hanson, J., Jones, C.S., First report of Johnsongrass mosaic virus infecting Urochloa mosambicensis in Ethiopia. Plant Disease READ
Kuwi, S.O., Kyalo, M., Mutai, C.K., Mwilawa, A., Hanson, J., Djikeng, A., Ghimire S.R. Genetic diversity and population structure of Urochloa grass accessions from Tanzania using simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers. Brazilian Journal of Botany READ
Ellis, R.H., Nasehzadeh, M., Hanson, J., Woldemariam, Y. Medium-term seed storage of 50 genera of forage legumes and evidence-based genebank monitoring intervals. Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution READ

Publications by ILRI genebank staff in 2017

Recent publications with at least one CGIAR genebank staff as author. HINT: Use the search key to filter the data.
Authors Article title Publication name URL
Negawo, A., Teshome, A., Kumar, A., Hanson, J., Jones, C. Opportunities for Napier Grass (Pennisetum purpureum) Improvement Using Molecular Genetics. Agronomy READ
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