Activated Genebank Network (AGENT)

Establishing a global genebank network to sustainably unlock the genetic diversity of food crops for future generations and make them intuitively accessible for modern breeding programmes

Very large field of young green wheat in South Africa. Far away in the background and on the right-hand side are mountains. The sun is setting which has created a bright dusky glow across the field.

Plant genetic resources (GenRes) hold the key for adapting crops to a changing climate which we are increasingly facing at a global scale. In order to facilitate the educated selection and utilisation of GenRes in breeding and agriculture, a systematic effort towards the identification and incorporation of these valuable resources is of crucial importance. 

While the first genebanks were established as early as in the mid-1920s to preserve the genetic diversity of crops for future generations, a total of about 7.4 million accessions are stored in more than 1,750 genebanks across the world today.

However, as procedures for managing the material are not always following international standards yet, the true potential of the stored resources for breeding and research often remains unknown. Large amounts of invaluable genetic resources have been exchanged between institutions around the world, leading to redundancies between the collections.

These unanswered questions set the basis for research in AGENT:

  • How many independent accessions are needed to represent the global genomic diversity of a crop species?
  • How many duplicates should be maintained in genebanks?
  • How do we track the identity of genebank accessions while maintaining their genetic integrity?
  • How do we efficiently select the most suitable accessions for different purposes?
  • What is the most systematic approach to maximise the value and use of GenRes?
  • Which bioinformatics and database infrastructure is needed to facilitate data mining of global GenRes collections in context of other information?
  • How do we capture climate change-independent (dis-)appearance of diversity?
  • Institute of Plant Genetic Resources, Sadovo, Bulgaria
  • Crop Research Institute, Prague, Czech Republic
  • National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment, Versailles, France
  • Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, Gatersleben, Germany
  • Centre for Agricultural Research, Martonvasar, Hungary
  • Institute for Cereal Crops Improvement, Tel Aviv University, Israel
  • EURICE, St. Imbert, Germany
  • Consiglio per la Ricerca in Agricoltura e l’Analisi dell’Economia Agraria – Research Centre for Cereal and Industrial Crops, Vercelli, Italy
  • International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome, Italy 
  • The International Center for Agriculture Research in the Dry Areas, Beirut, Lebanon
  • Stichting Wageningen Research, Netherlands
  • Plant Breeding and Acclimatisation Institute, Witki, Poland
  • National Agricultural Research and Development Institute, Fundulea, Romania
  • National Agricultural and Food Centre, Nitra, Slovakia
  • National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology, Carretera de la Coruna, Spain 
  • WBF-Agroscope , Bern, Switzerland
  • Zurich University, Switzerland

European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 862613.

AGENT project website