ANNUAL REPORT 2020
Rising to meet the challenges of our ever-changing world
Diversity safety duplicated+82K
Diversity data generated13
Grants provided for conservationUSD 30.9M
Contributions to future diversityUSD 17.9M
Diversity conserved736 K
Countries receiving samples78
Sir Peter Crane – Executive Board Chair, Crop Trust
When we look back over the achievements and challenges of 2020, we cannot ignore the profound and ongoing effect of COVID-19. As this crisis demonstrates, humanity cannot afford to become complacent.
Stefan Schmitz – Executive Director, Crop Trust
No aspect of the Crop Trust’s work in 2020 was left untouched by the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
What we did
A Decade of Wild Genetic Diversity
We’re already seeing the CWR Project’s benefits for smallholder and subsistence farmers. In China, Kazakhstan and Chile, for example, fields are flourishing with drought-tolerant varieties of alfalfa.
At the Cutting Edge of Pre-breeding
This project is using exciting new methods and tools, like speed breeding and genomics, to revolutionize the breeding of improved varieties of neglected crops, which will get climate-smart crops into the hands of smallholder farmers more quickly.
Delivering CWR-derived Varieties into Farmers’ Hands
Pre-breeding aims to isolate desired genetic traits from crop wild relatives and introduce them into breeding lines that are more readily crossable with modern seeds. Under the Crop Wild Relatives Project, new pre-bred lines are being evaluated under field conditions with breeders and farmers.
What we did
Safer Genebanks Today and Tomorrow
Genebanks faced major challenges in 2020, but, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of genebank staff, collections of crop diversity under the CGIAR Genebank Platform remain safe.
Strengthening Genebanks in Africa
Even amid the immense challenges of pandemic lockdowns, Seeds for Resilience partners enthusiastically embraced the goal of strengthening their operations to safeguard unique crop diversity.
A Growing Bank of Knowledge
Building information systems that truly serve genebank technicians, curators, breeders and researchers is a key aspect of improving the global system for ex situ conservation
Pivoting to Digital-First Communications
All Crop Trust events in 2020 swiftly switched to digital, the team focused on increased outreach through partnerships with high-reach platforms to expand their reach and deliver messages to key audiences and communities. Participation in high-reach digital events increased views and reach substantially and, at the same time, dramatically cut travel and conference expenditures.
To maintain critical activities in 2020 under COVID-19 restrictions, our project partners were forced to take extraordinary measures—with some leaving family to stay on-site at their workplaces, ensuring that vulnerable plant materials and ongoing experiments would be looked after. It is because of these individual and collective sacrifices that project activities were able to continue at all in 2020.
Rising to the Occasion from Home
Shifting to remote work and dealing with rapidly changing COVID-19 restrictions certainly shook us all up—but it has also been a tremendous opportunity to rethink our old processes and mindset so we can continue to evolve as an organization.
Securing Our Food Forever
Funding Crop Diversity in Perpetuity
The Endowment Fund is an exciting idea to provide a sustainable, long-term financing mechanism and make possible the Crop Trust’s important work of safeguarding crop diversity in perpetuity.
In 2020, the Innovative Finance Working Group focused primarily on developing a Food Security Bond (FSB) concept, and a feasibility study on the FSB was carried out.
Looking Ahead: Responsible Investing
The Crop Trust considers integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns into its investment process to be an important part of its investment strategy, and one that supports its broader mission and objectives.
At the Cutting Edge of Pre-breeding
“This project is using exciting new methods and tools, like speed breeding and genomics, to revolutionize the breeding of improved varieties of neglected crops, which will get climate-smart crops into the hands of smallholder farmers more quickly.”-Benjamin Kilian, Pre-Breeding Project Lead and Senior Scientist Plant Genetic Resources
Grasspea gets growing
Grasspea is an important crop for global food security: it can be eaten as a grain, fed to livestock and used as fertilizer for farming systems. It can withstand the environmental extremes that cause other crops to fail—such as droughts and floods—and it’s rich in iron, zinc and protein.
The Pre-Breeding Project has been working to advance grasspea pre-breeding through the application of state-of-the art tools and techniques.
Using traditional methods, it can take 12 years to breed a new grasspea variety using wild relatives as parents. With a ‘speed breeding’ technique developed by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), this can happen in as little as 5 years. Scientists at ICARDA in Rabat, Morocco have been using speed breeding to develop new varieties of grasspea for farmers in South Asia and East Africa.
High-tech breeding of new varieties is only possible, however, with carefully developed source materials and robust genetic information. In the past year, project partners have also greatly advanced what is known about the grasspea genome by re-sequencing and re-assembling the entire reference genome—a boon for all future grasspea breeding efforts.
Finessing finger millet
Finger millet is another highly nutritious, drought-tolerant crop that is important for smallholder farmers, particularly women. However, yields are stagnating, in part because of blast disease and a parasitic plant called Striga.
The Pre-Breeding Project is fighting back by delivering a pre-breeding scheme for East Africa designed to develop seeds that are more tolerant to disease and other stresses. Under the project, scientists and breeders have already produced 91 crosses between promising donor landraces and farmer-preferred varieties in Ethiopia.
Molecular characterization is also underway for the largest and most important Eastern African finger millet collections, which will provide a foundation for future breeding programs.
New knowledge hubs
Because there are no existing databases for these two important crops, the James Hutton Institute is developing new websites for finger millet and grasspea that will gather key resources, updates and events to serve as go-to knowledge hubs for the respective research communities.
More on Pre-breeding