Search site

The Crop Trust and IRRI renew their commitment to safeguarding rice diversity in perpetuity

IRRI was the first genebank to fulfill all the quality standards required to receive perpetual funding

Berlin, Germany, 15 November 2023 - The Crop Trust and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) renewed their shared commitment to the conservation and utilization of plant genetic resources through the International Rice Genebank during a signing ceremony at the sidelines of the Global Crop Diversity Summit in Berlin.

The Crop Trust Executive Director, Dr. Stefan Schmitz, and IRRI Interim Director General, Dr. Ajay Kohli, signed a Statement of Collaboration which sets forth new plans for the International Rice Genebank for the next five years, in accordance with their Long-term Partnership Agreement originally signed in October 2018.

Hosted in IRRI’s Los Baños Philippines headquarters, the International Rice Genebank is the world’s largest rice genebank which holds, in trust, over 132,000 varieties of cultivated and wild rice originating from 132 countries. It is one of 10 CGIAR global genebanks that manage diverse collections of agricultural crops for the common public good. It is also the first genebank to receive long-term support from the Crop Trust’s Endowment Fund, which provides a sustainable, long-term financing mechanism for the important work of protecting crop diversity.

Left: The Crop Trust Executive Director, Dr. Stefan Schmitz, and IRRI Interim Director General, Dr. Ajay Kohli, signed a Statement of Collaboration in Berlin. Dr. Venuprasad Ramaiah, head of the International Rice Genebank, was also present at the signing. Right: Dr. Ramaiah welcomes guests at the International Rice Genebank in IRRI’s HQ in Los Baños, Philippines.

“Crop diversity has never been more important. It underpins the productivity, resilience, and adaptive capacity of agriculture. It is the reason behind the existence and importance of genebanks. To this end, we look forward to the new innovations that IRRI will introduce through their work at the International Rice Genebank,” Dr. Schmitz said.

By 2035, it is forecasted that feeding the growing population will need the production of an additional 112 million metric tons of rice on scarce land areas, with less water, and under more fluctuating climatic conditions. These projections require higher-yielding future rice cultivars more resilient to multiple abiotic and biotic stresses. The foundation of the continued improvement of rice cultivars is in the rich genetic diversity within domesticated populations and wild relatives stored within the world’s genebanks.

As global public goods, the International Rice Genebank’s genetic resources are used by IRRI and are freely shared with rice scientists worldwide for breeding activities to develop new and better rice varieties. To date, about 3,000 rice genomes from 89 countries have been sequenced by IRRI and its partners, with an average of 10 functionally distinct variants of each gene already being found.

“This is a crucial funding source to further evolve our work in this genebank and better serve the rice research community worldwide. It is also evidence of the genebank’s operational excellence and our consistent compliance with international standards. We thank the Crop Trust for their continued support,” said Dr. Venuprasad Ramaiah, head of the International Rice Genebank.

Many more rice genomes remain to be fully sequenced and explored. Ramaiah’s team has been applying AI and high-throughput phenotyping methodologies to further accelerate research on the genebank's rice collection’s tolerance to abiotic stresses such as flooding, drought, and salinity.

“IRRI's commitment to developing new rice varieties, enhancing yield, and ensuring the resilience of this essential crop has a direct impact on global food security. With over half of the world's population depending on rice as a staple food, the implications of our continued research and collaborations through the International Rice Genebank are enormous. The sustained support of the Crop Trust is and will continue to be vital for our innovations and that of all the world’s most important genebanks,” said Dr. Kohli.