Genebanks hold the foundations of our food supply, offering insurance against the growing pressures of the climate crisis and other threats to crops worldwide. These seed repositories mitigate the risk of a food crisis in the future by ensuring a healthy, stable and diverse variety of crops will be available when we need it most.
However, many of the world’s more than 1,700 genebanks are vulnerable to natural disasters, war, social unrest, infrastructure issues, or a simple lack of funds. To ensure these vital resources are safe and secure, organizations are looking to form long-term funding and genebank collaborations, which have seen success with the Crop Trust’s Long-term Partnership Agreements (LPAs), which offer funding to keep seedbanks running in perpetuity.
In this GLF Live, host Natasha Elkington spoke with experts Sarada Krishnan and Michael Abberton about seeds, grains, genebanks and how long-term funding and collaboration can help protect crop diversity and the food supply of the future.
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Sarada Krishnan is the director of programs at the Global Crop Diversity Trust. In this role, she supervises a team of scientists and project managers, overseeing the implementation of strategic projects and programs designed to support the organizational mandate of securing the world’s crop diversity. She oversees the planning, development, and implementation of the overall programmatic technical framework of the organization. She currently serves on the USDA National Genetic Resources Advisory Council and is the chair of USDA’s Coffee and Cacao Crop Germplasm Committee. She also serves on Colorado State University (CSU) College of Agricultural Sciences’ AgIndustry Leadership Council and is faculty affiliate in the CSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.
Michael Abberton is currently director of R4D in West Africa, head of the Genetic Resources Centre and head of the Biosciences Centre at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Ibadan, Nigeria. He joined IITA in 2012 as head of the Genetic Resources Centre and subsequently head of the Biosciences Centre. He was deputy director for six years and became director in January 2021. His work at the GRC has focused on the core elements of conservation and use of germplasm for the staple crops cassava, yam, banana/plantain, maize, cowpea and soybean, as well as the development of infrastructure. The GRC works closely with a number of national genebanks, particularly NACGRAB. Before joining IITA, he was professor of public good plant breeding at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at the University of Aberystwyth in the U.K. He was also head of plant breeding and genetics at IBERS and for many years worked on the breeding and genetics of forage legumes at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research (IGER), Aberystwyth. His work has contributed to a number of commercially successful varieties as well as numerous papers and presentations.
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