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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, 2012-2017

HINT: Use the search key to filter the data. For descriptions of performance indicators, click here.
Indicator 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
1. Total number of accessions 18,850 18,716 18,640 18,634 18,627 18,638
2. Total number of accessions that are currently available 7,655 6,794 8,182 9,182 9,690 10,321
3. Number of seed accessions 18,850 18,716 18,640 18,634 18,627 18,638
4. Number of vegetatively-propagated accessions 0 0 0 0 0 0
5. 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
6. Number of vegetatively-propagated accessions in cryopreservation or safety duplicated as in vitro 0 0 0 0 0 0
PDCI score - - - 6.46 6.56 6.88

Genebank operations, 2012-2017

HINT: Use the search key to filter the data
Indicator 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Number accessions received 0 52 0 0 0 0
Number accessions regenerated 0 0 82 0 0 10
Number accessions multiplied 1,036 1,074 1,220 1,037 720 802
Number accessions health tested 1,096 768 1,016 777 1,981 1,366
Number accessions cleaned 0 0 0 6 0 120
Number accessions viability tested 522 571 1,730 1,164 1,171 838

Number of samples distributed to users within and outside the CGIAR, 2012-2017

HINT: Use the search key to filter the data. For descriptions of performance indicators, click here.
Indicator 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Number of samples distributed within the CGIAR 13 0 35 0 29 10
Number of samples distributed outside the CGIAR 541 1,357 1,002 474 686 1,050
Total number of samples distributed 554 1,357 1,037 474 715 1,060
Number of accessions distributed within the CGIAR 12 0 35 0 29 10
Number of accessions distributed outside the CGIAR 470 1,062 693 350 608 888
Total number of accessions distributed 482 1,062 728 350 637 898
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