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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, 2012-2020

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 2020
1. Total number of accessions 18,850 18,716 18,640 18,634 18,627 18,638 18,639 18,662 18,662
2. Total number of accessions that are currently available 7,655 6,794 8,182 9,182 9,690 10,321 0 2,555 3,212
3. Number of seed accessions 18,850 18,716 18,640 18,634 18,627 18,638 18,639 18,662 18,662
4. Number of vegetatively propagated accessions 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
5. Number of live plant accessions 1,291 1,542 1,526 1,514 1,516 1,538 1,531 1,548 1,524
6. Number of seed accessions held in long-term storage and safety duplicated at two levels 1,341 3,515 3,515 3,515 3,515 3,515 3,904 5,269 5,051
7. Number of vegetatively propagated accessions in cryopreservation or safety duplicated as in vitro 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
8. Number of wild species accessions 7,545 - 2,555 2,241

Genebank operations, 2012-2020

HINT: Use the search key to filter the data
Indicator 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
1. Number of accessions with passport & characterization data available . . . . . . . 17,020 17,031
2. Number accessions received 0 52 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
3. Number accessions regenerated 0 0 82 0 0 10 130 0 80
4. Number accessions multiplied 1,036 1,074 1,220 1,037 720 802 799 1,161 890
5. Number accessions health tested 1,096 768 1,016 777 1,981 1,366 1,204 3,211 3,802
6. Number accessions cleaned 0 0 0 6 0 120 177 51 1,602
7. Number accessions viability tested 522 571 1,730 1,164 1,171 838 928 2,651 1,623

Number of samples distributed to users within and outside the CGIAR, 2012-2020

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 2020
1. Total number external germplasm requests 33 37 45 19 28 26 22 27 20
2. Number of samples distributed within the CGIAR 13 0 35 0 29 10 68 0 0
3. Number of samples distributed outside the CGIAR 541 1,357 1,002 474 686 1,050 364 1,077 567
4. Total number of samples distributed 554 1,357 1,037 474 715 1,060 432 1,077 567
5. Number of accessions distributed within the CGIAR 12 0 35 0 29 10 68 0 0
6. Number of accessions distributed outside the CGIAR 470 1,062 693 350 608 888 358 1,077 567
7. Total number of accessions distributed 482 1,062 728 350 637 898 426 1,077 567
8. Total number of accessions distributed outside the CGIAR with SMTA 358 1,077 567
9. Total number of unique accessions distributed outside the CGIAR with SMTA 809 358 1,077 493

Genebank Platform publications, 2017-2020

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
Negawo, A., Teshome, A., Kumar, A., Hanson, J., Jones, C. Opportunities for Napier Grass (Pennisetum purpureum) Improvement Using Molecular Genetics. Agronomy READ
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
Wang, Z.; Wang, X.; Zhang, H.; Ma, L.; Zhao, H.; Jones C.S.; Chen, J.; Liu G. A genome-wide association study approach to the identification of candidate genes underlying agronomic traits in alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) Plant Biotechnology Journal READ
Sartie, A., Woldemariam, Y., Hanson, J. & Ndiwa, N. Developing improved methods for cost effective viability monitoring of Aeschynomene abyssinica and A. americana Seed Science and Technology READ
Habte, E., Muktar, M.S., Abdena, A., Hanson, J., Sartie, A.M., Negawo, A.T., Machado, J.C., Ledo, F.J.S. & Jones, C.S Forage performance and detection of marker trait associations with potential for Napier grass (Cenchrus purpureus) improvement Agronomy READ
Teressa, A., Assefa, Y., Hanson, J., Abdena, A., Muktar, M.S., Habte, E., Sartie, A.M. & Jones, C.S Genotyping-by-sequencing reveals population structure and genetic diversity of a Buffelgrass (Cenchrus ciliaris L.) Diversity READ
Halewood, Michael, Nelissa Jamora, Isabel Noriega, Noelle Anglin, Peter Wenzl, Thomas Payne, Marie-Noelle Ndjiondjop, Luigi Guarino, P. Kumar, Mariana Yazbek, Alice Muchugi, Vania Azevedo, Marimagne Tchamba, Chris Jones, Ramaiah Venuprasad, Nicolas Roux, Germplasm Acquisition and Distribution by CGIAR Genebanks Plants READ
Aina, A. I. , Ilori, C. O. , Ekanem, U. O. , Oyatomi, O. , Potter, D. , Abberton, M Morphological characterisation and variability analysis of African yam bean (Sphenostylis stenocarpa hochst. ex. A. rich) harms International Journal of Plant Research READ
Oluwole OO, Olomitutu OE, Paliwal R, Oyatomi OA, Abberton MT, Obembe OO. Preliminary Assessment of the Association between DArT-SEQ SNP and some Nutritional Traits in African Yam Bean. Trop J Nat Prod Res rel=noopener" target="_blank">READ
Kumar, A., Hanson, J., Jones, C., Yilikal, A & Mulatu, F. Screening and characterisation of virus causing yellow leaf disease of Tephrosia in Ethiopia Australasian Plant Pathology READ
Yan, Q.; Wu, F.; Xu, P.; Li, J.; Chen, D.; Sun, Z.; Gao, L.; Lu, L.; Muktar, M.; Jones, C.; Yi, X.; Zhang J. The elephant grass (Cenchrus purpureus) genome provides insights into anthocyanidin accumulation and fast growth Molecular Ecology Resources READ
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