Conserving banana diversity for use in perpetuity: Strengthening the network of collections to improve access to wider diversity and safeguard threatened banana cultivars

Published on 22 June 2010

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Start Date: 15 March 2008 | End Date: 31 March 2011


Bananas and plantains (Musa) are grown in more than 120 countries throughout the tropics and subtropics, 85% of which are produced by small-scale farmers for home consumption or for sale in local and national markets. As such they sustain rural livelihoods and food security. Musa includes a wide range of types and cultivars, including cooking bananas, plantains and dessert bananas. Cooking banana and plantain provide a staple food for over 400 million people, with great importance in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Musa (banana) genetic resources are conserved within a worldwide network of field collections (MusaNet) and in vitro at the International Musa Germplasm Collection (ITC), managed by Bioversity International at the Katholieke Universiteit (KUL) Leuven, Belgium. The participants in MusaNet are loosely connected through shared initiatives, regional research networks and information and germplasm exchanges. The effectiveness of the system has been constrained by limited capacity and resources in all institutes to manage the entirety of their collections to appropriate standards, and to complete safety duplication, characterization and documentation of accessions. Consequently a significant number of accessions continue to be lost or threatened.


Funded by the Global Crop Diversity Trust, this project has focused on strengthening collections, exchanges and communities of practice within MusaNet in order to provide access to and promote the use of a wider range of Musa diversity to respond to the diverse and evolving needs of present and future germplasm users, producing four main outputs focussing on regeneration and safety duplication in priority field collections, improving the genetic coverage of the international collection at the ITC, improving specific areas of taxonomic understanding and completing cryopreservation of the in trust collection.


The work remains on target to regenerate, duplicate and document accessions in priority collections, as well as improving the coverage of the international collection at the ITC. The project has also contributed to building capacity in cryopreservation and virus-indexing, initiatives that have been much appreciated by partners.

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