Preventing a breakdown in funding that could disrupt a global network of seed banks, the Global Crop Diversity Trust and the CGIAR Consortium, signed an agreement to provide $109 million over five years for the CGIAR Research Program for Managing and Sustaining Crop Collections, which maintains samples of crops, forages and agroforestry resources in “genebanks.” CGIAR maintains 11 research centers around the world.

"With climate change greatly intensifying demands on plant breeders to develop new heat-, drought- and flood-tolerant crops, it is particularly important for the samples conserved in the CGIAR's genebanks to be readily accessible and in optimal condition," said Åslaug Marie Haga, incoming executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. "The viability of agriculture depends on the incredible treasure of crop diversity housed in the CGIAR genebanks."

Maintaining the thousands of crop varieties throughout the network is challenging because of the way the seeds have to be handled, collected, cleaned and stored. In addition to these duties, these genebanks must also test the seeds for health, viability, etc. and research ways to better conserve crops that do not produce seed or whose seeds are hard to store.

The new agreement will allow the CGIAR Consortium and the Trust to work with donors to secure a more permanent endowment to fund the genebanks in perpetuity.

"Given all of the turbulent issues surrounding agriculture and food today, from high commodity prices to threats from weather extremes, I think the international community is waking up to the enormous value of preserving crop diversity," said Margaret Catley-Carlson, outgoing chair of the Trust's executive board and former president of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). "We want to put the seed banks on a more firm financial footing to make sure they remain prepared to respond to any new challenges, expected or unexpected, that could threaten agriculture production anywhere in the world."

"We see opportunities with this new program to knit together a global community committed to crop biodiversity that extends beyond CGIAR genebanks and allows funds to be invested more wisely," said Charlotte Lusty, a scientist with the Trust who is working on the partnership with the CGIAR genebanks. "There's a lot of expertise out there in Europe, the US, India, Brazil and China and we can reach out and build new partnerships that will ensure we are not duplicating efforts."