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Crop Trust

Annual Report 2021

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In my long tenure as a member of the Crop Trust executive board and as its chair, I’ve been privileged to witness firsthand some of its greatest achievements to date.

When I joined the board in 2007, the Crop Trust launched the Global System Project, the largest rescue of crop collections that has ever been attempted. This ambitious project helped provide the foundations of much of the organization’s work since. At the end of that year, the Endowment Fund stood at nearly USD 83 million, while the staff comprised 15 full-time members and five part-timers.

And now, in 2021, my final year on the board, the Crop Trust has grown in every respect. The Endowment Fund stands at nearly USD 400 million and the organization has a dedicated staff of more than 40. This past year marked the successful conclusion of two major projects: the Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) Project and the CGIAR Genebank Platform. But this is not the end of either stream of work. The CWR Project is providing the foundations for a new 10-year project, Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods and Development (BOLD), while the Genebank Platform will live on in the Crop Trust’s new relationship with One CGIAR and with other genebanks around the world. 

These are just a few signs of how the Crop Trust has grown in my time on the board.

The three years I’ve spent as Chair of the Executive Board of the Crop Trust have certainly been memorable. In my first year, 2019, we celebrated the Crop Trust’s first 15 years; a period of remarkable growth and consolidation. In that time, the organization rescued genebanks, raised its Endowment Fund to a level where it could sustainably fund numerous crop collections in perpetuity, and supported the back up of nearly a million seed samples in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It was a time of celebration and of hope for the future.

The next two years could have seen this all come to a halt as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. But the Crop Trust, its staff and its partners demonstrated remarkable resilience, commitment and adaptability to deliver against its own challenging program of work and even launch new initiatives, including the BOLD Project and an emergency relief fund for genebanks in crisis—the first of its kind. We are grateful to the Government of Norway for its support.

We are also grateful to the German Government for its support for a three-year project to further the institutional development and strategic repositioning of the Crop Trust, particularly around sustainable financing.

These new initiatives, together with the rest of the Crop Trust’s program, will contribute to laying the foundations for a more secure global food system for decades to come.

Here's hoping that 2022 and beyond will see a return to more normal times and allow the Crop Trust and all its partners to continue with their efforts to ensure that the world’s crop diversity is conserved and put to use in meeting humanity’s need for a food- and nutrition-secure future.

It has been a great pleasure and an honor to be a part of this exciting journey. I shall continue to do all I can from the sidelines to promote and support the work of the Crop Trust and its partners.

Peter Crane Chair of the Executive Board, 2019-2021

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During a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic continued to darken lives and constrain normal activities worldwide, signs of hope for our shared future shone through. We saw an increased sense of urgency within the global community to combat the climate crisis and secure our future food supply, through launching new initiatives, partnerships and proposed solutions.

The Crop Trust, along with its partners and donors, continued its invaluable work in 2021 to meet the organization’s unique mandate: to conserve and promote the use of crop diversity for a food-secure future.

For this continuity, I am particularly grateful to Sir Peter Crane, the outgoing Executive Board Chair (2019–2021), who stepped up to lead the board after contributing as a member for 14 years. Though his tenure as board chair coincided with a period of great worldwide upheaval, the organization managed to not only survive but thrive, surpassing planned goals and launching new endeavors that will lay the foundations for a more secure global food system for decades to come. 

On behalf of the whole community, I thank Peter for his thoughtful leadership and unwavering commitment to the Crop Trust.

Thanks as well to the leadership of Crop Trust Executive Director, Stefan Schmitz, and the organization’s dedicated staff, partners and donors, the Crop Trust is entering 2022 with renewed energy and commitment to its mission.

I am deeply grateful to all these individuals and look forward to the year ahead as we work together to build a more secure global food supply.

“I am delighted to be appointed as chair of the Crop Trust’s executive board and look forward to playing an active role in advancing and supporting the Crop Trust’s mission to underpin the long-term future of the global food supply. In the face of the climate crisis, it is clearer than ever that the Crop Trust’s unique mandate has never been more relevant or important.”

Catherine Bertini, Incoming Chair, Crop Trust Executive Board

Catherine Bertini Chair of the Crop Trust Executive Board (2022–)

In a year in which the global COVID-19 pandemic affected us all so much, I am proud of all that the Crop Trust and our partners achieved

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In a year in which the global COVID-19 pandemic affected us all so much, I am proud of all that the Crop Trust and our partners achieved in 2021, from the completion of the 11-year Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) Project to the ramping up of the Seeds for Resilience Project and the launch of Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods and Development (BOLD), a new 10-year initiative to strengthen the conservation and use of crop diversity in national genebanks worldwide. 

Through greater participation, stronger alliances and new partnerships, these and our other programs and initiatives are laying the foundations for a more sustainable, food- and nutrition-secure future based on greater use of crop diversity.

I am delighted to say that the CWR Project exceeded our expectations, not only in collecting and conserving a wide range of the wild relatives of 28 important food and forage crops, but also in using this diversity in pre-breeding work with 19 of these crops. The original aim was to produce plants that incorporated important traits from the crop wild relatives—such as heat or drought tolerance or pest and disease resistance—that could then be used in further breeding efforts. But several of the projects actually managed to release improved CWR-derived varieties to farmers, including of alfalfa, durum wheat, rice and potatoes.

A good example of this is a new disease-resistant potato variety. This super-spud, called CIP-Matilde, shows how the rich crop diversity the Crop Trust is committed to conserving enhances the climate resilience of smallholder agriculture. We were proud to launch CIP-Matilde with our partners at the International Potato Center (CIP) and are eager to continue much of this work through BOLD.

Another long-term project that came to an end in 2021 was the CGIAR Genebank Platform. However, it will serve as a springboard for a new collaboration with CGIAR, the CGIAR Genebank Initiative. The Crop Trust has been supporting the work of the 11 CGIAR genebanks for the past decade and, looking to the future, we will be continuing and broadening this activity to build a Global Genebank Partnership. 

This partnership will include additional international and national genebanks while maintaining the focus on an agreed set of key activities. Despite the transition, the long-term commitment of the Crop Trust to the CGIAR genebanks remains steadfast.

We also launched, in partnership with the Secretariat of the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (the Plant Treaty), a new emergency relief fund for genebanks in crisis. This is the first time that such support has been made available in a structured way, and we are grateful to the governments of Italy and Norway for providing funds for this venture.

Late in the year, in coordination with our partners at NordGen and the Norwegian Ministry of Food and Agriculture, as well as the Plant Treaty, we also launched a competitive grants scheme to support collection holders in low- and middle-income countries to regenerate their crop collections and duplicate them at the Seed Vault. The response to the call for proposals was overwhelming, with more than 60 proposals received.

Our other projects have also made significant strides this year. The Global Crop Conservation Strategies Project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), published three new strategies and one updated strategy, all of which were developed by crop experts. This initiative is a uniting force in conservation action, identifying challenges and galvanizing engagement around the world.

Our Seeds for Resilience Project, too, celebrated significant milestones, signing formal agreements with all of its partner national genebanks in Africa to support safeguarding crop diversity and making it more accessible to farmers, breeders and researchers.

The Crop Trust worked closely with partners and governments to develop game-changing solutions at the United Nations Food Systems Summit, playing an active role in the Summit’s Scientific Group, the Agrobiodiversity Solution Cluster and the Finance “Lever of Change”.

The Crop Trust’s endowment continued to grow in 2021 through gains in the capital markets, and with important contributions by the United States, New Zealand, India and Limagrain. In addition, the endowment received a contribution from Germany to support interest payments on a concessional loan, for all of which we are deeply grateful.

No solution to something as complicated as the multiple interconnected challenges we currently face is achievable alone, or by any one action. Only with the collaboration and enthusiasm of committed partners can we have a real, lasting impact. We were proud to sign a memorandum of understanding with the World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) earlier this year, and look forward to many more such alliances.

Greater participation, stronger alliances and new partnerships: this is what gives me hope that we will find the right answers to the climate crisis and ensure that the foundation of our future food supply is secured, forever.

Stefan Schmitz Executive Director

Key figures


USD 33 M

in grants provided to fund

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The Crop Trust and its partners conducted a wide variety of program activities in 2021, including the CGIAR Genebank Platform, the Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) Project, the Seeds for Resilience Project, the new BOLD Project and the development of global crop conservation strategies.



contributed to the Crop Diversity Endowment Fund

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The total estimated value of the endowment fund amounted USD 339 million as of the end of 2021 as a result of contributions from USAID, the Government of New Zealand, the Government of Germany, the Government of India and Group Limagrain, as well as continuing successful market performance.



seed samples added to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

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As of December 2021, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault safeguarded 1,125,419 seed samples from 89 genebanks and research institutions worldwide.



records of genebank samples updated in Genesys in 2021

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As of December 2021, Genesys made 4,257.039 records of genebank samples publicly available for users worldwide to request plant materials and conduct invaluable research.



new crop-wild-relative-derived varieties of durum wheat and one each of alfalfa and potato released to farmers

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During the final phase of the 11-year CWR Project, more than 14,000 pre-bred lines of 19 crops incorporating useful traits from crop wild relatives were made available to plant breeders, researchers and farmers to further adapt agriculture to climate change.



countries received 96,590 samples of seed and plantlets from genebanks in the CGIAR Genebank Platform

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The 11 CGIAR genebanks, supported by the Genebank Platform coordinated by the Crop Trust, have distributed nearly 1 million samples of seeds and plantlets to 166 countries since 2012, when the Crop Trust started coordinating the program.

Highlights of the year

January 25th

Crop Science Special Issue Shows Why Crops Need to Get Wild

This special edition is devoted to research conducted by the Crop Trust-led Crop Wild Relatives Project.

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February 18th

Strawberry Seeds Deposited at the First Svalbard Global Seed Vault Opening of 2021

Among the first deposits of 2021 were seeds of watermelon, strawberry and pumpkin.

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March 2nd

Vision for 2030: Closing the Gap Between Ideal and Reality

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April 28th

Genebank Resilience Tested as Pandemic Enters Second Year

Genebanks faced many challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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June 8th

Germany and the Crop Trust expand cooperation

Germany and the Crop Trust expand their cooperation to help safeguard global crop diversity in perpetuity.

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June 29th

Saving Hard-to-Conserve Food Crops

The Plant Treaty and the Crop Trust co-organized a virtual expert panel “Cryopreservation: a long-term strategy for hard-to-conserve plant genetic material for food and agriculture in a post-COVID world”.

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July 22nd

Virtual Workshop on “Unlocking” the Value in Germplasm Collections

Scientists from across the CGIAR, and its partner and donor organizations met in July 2021 to identify opportunities for enhancing use of crop germplasm collections.

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August 12th

UNFSS Pre-Summit Addresses Agrobiodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems

The Crop Trust participated in the Pre-Summit to the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit and delivered game-changing solution for conserving agrobiodiversity.

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September 3rd

Crop Trust and WorldVeg Join Efforts to Bring More Vegetables to the Table

The Crop Trust and WorldVeg strengthen their partnership to conserve and make available vegetable diversity.

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September 21st

Regaining Momentum for Agrobiodiversity Conservation at the UN Food Systems Summit

The Crop Trust played a leading role in the “Agrobiodiversity Cluster” and both the Scientific Group and the Finance “Lever of Change” of the Summit.

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September 27th

Banking on Crop Diversity for Food Security in the Face of Climate Change

Groundbreaking 10-year, USD 58 million project launches to secure future food security and climate resilience globally. 

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October 4th

Announcing Support to Back up Crop Collections in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The Crop Trust and its partners announced the launch of a competitive grant scheme to support the backing up of crop diversity in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

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October 28th

Svalbard Global Seed Vault Reopens for Final Deposit of 2021

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault welcomed 50 boxes containing 14,011 seed samples, bringing the total in the vault to 1,125,416.

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October 29th

Protecting Your Halloween Pumpkin from Climate Change

The new Global Crop Conservation Strategy for Cucurbitaceae provides a road map for the coordinated conservation of this important and widely beloved plant family.

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November 6th

Crop Trust and the Plant Treaty launch lifeline for genebanks to secure the future of crop diversity

The Crop Trust and the Plant Treaty Secretariat launched an emergency fund for genebanks facing urgent threats to their precious contents.

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November 11th

Crop Trust Executive Director Stefan Schmitz at GLF Climate: We Depend on Seeds for Survival

The Crop Trust’s Executive Director, Stefan Schmitz, delivers a keynote speech about the importance of crop diversity to food security.

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November 18th

2nd International Agrobiodiversity Congress

The Crop Trust hosted a virtual side event to the Agrobiodiversity Congress, a “Genebanks: Hedging bets for tomorrow’s agri-food economies”.

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December 23rd

A Year of Great Hope

2021 reflections by Stefan Schmitz, Crop Trust Executive Director.

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December 30th

Catherine Bertini New Chair of the Crop Trust’s Executive Board

World Food Prize Laureate Catherine Bertini assumes leadership of the Executive Board of the Crop Trust.

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What we did

Crop Wild Relatives Project Delivers Beyond Expectation

Crop Wild Relatives Project Delivers Beyond Expectation

The 11-year Crop Wild Relatives (CWR) project, funded by the Government of Norway, came to an end in 2021 after achieving or exceeding all of the goals it had set, including releasing several new crop varieties derived from crop wild relatives.

Building BOLDly on Success

Building BOLDly on Success

Launched in September 2021, Biodiversity for Opportunities, Livelihoods and Development (BOLD) is a 10-year project, funded by the Government of Norway, that will build on the successes and achievements of the Crop Wild Relatives Project to strengthen food and nutrition security worldwide.

Breakthroughs in Breeding Grasspea and Finger Millet

Breakthroughs in Breeding Grasspea and Finger Millet

The project, “Safeguarding crop diversity for food security: Pre-breeding complemented with Innovative Finance,” funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation, Inc., made major strides in developing new crosses in grasspea and finger millet using crop wild relatives and landraces.

CGIAR Genebank Platform

CGIAR Genebank Platform

The CGIAR Genebank Platform came to an end in 2021 after a decade of Crop Trust’s coordination of the program.

Strengthening Genebanks in Africa

Strengthening Genebanks in Africa

Seeds for Resilience is a 5-year project supporting collections of key crops identified by partner genebanks in five sub-Saharan African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia.

Breathing New Life into the Global Crop Conservation Strategies

Breathing New Life into the Global Crop Conservation Strategies

Global Crop Conservation Strategies guide global conservation of genetic resources for key crops. Three new strategies were published in 2021 and drafts of four more were completed.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Twenty-two genebanks, including two new ones, added nearly 51,000 seed samples to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in 2021.

Data and Information: the Backbone of the Global System

Data and Information: the Backbone of the Global System

Information systems are central to the effective conservation and use of plant genetic resources, whether at the level of the individual collection, using the likes of GRIN-Global, or at a global level, like Genesys. The Crop Trust’s work on both types of system made significant strides in 2021.

Partnerships and Organizational News

Partnerships and Organizational News

The Crop Trust made a number of important strides in its partnerships and outreach in 2021. This included signing a memorandum of understanding with the World Vegetable Center, launching an Emergency Reserve fund for genebanks in crisis, and supporting and participating in key events such as the United Nations Food Systems Summit and Global Landscapes Forum discussions in Africa and alongside COP26 in Glasgow.

Finance and Investments

Finance and Investments

The Endowment Fund continued to grow during the year, with contributions received from the United States Agency for International Development, the Government of Germany, the Government of New Zealand, the Government of India and Groupe Limagrain along with healthy growth in the investments.

Securing Our Food Forever

Securing Our Food Forever

In this period of reduced overseas development aid and declining grants from governments, it has become necessary and urgent for the Crop Trust to explore new ways to engage a broader group of public and private donors in helping us reach our USD 850 million target.

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