Rapidly rising populations and urbanization particularly in developing countries, are straining the world’s, capacity to feed its peoples. Productive farm lands, natural habits and plant diversity—essential for doubling the production of nutritious food—are being degraded. The unpredictable impacts of natural disasters, environmental threats and a changing climate further threaten global food security. Land traditionally suitable for potato and sweetpotato cultivation is becoming less predominant due to insect and disease pressures from warming climates, as cultivation is forced to move to elevations where centuries-old varieties and farming practices may no longer be tenable. As soil quality worsens, productivity and yields suffer. Conservation and use of crop genetic diversity offers options to face these challenges.

Key achievements

The genebank drives the efforts of the International Potato Center (CIP) to conserve the world’s genetic diversity —cultivated, wild and breeding material—of potato and sweetpotato for future use. It plays a critical role in facilitating the impact-oriented release of CIP innovations and products, particularly suitable varieties for farmers and consumers. In situ and ex situ conservation of genetic diversity is critical for preserving and monitoring changes in the world’s plant genetic resources for food and agriculture. Lost genetic diversity—particularly of crop wild relatives—would restrict the ability of crop breeders and researchers to enhance farmers’ resilience and ability to produce enough nutritious food for the world.

The CIP genebank conserves—in vitro and in seed— the world’s most extensive collections of potato, sweetpotato and their wild relatives, as well as an unique collection of Andean roots and tubers—the genetic, physiological and biochemical attributes of which the scientific community has just begun to explore. CIP safeguards that biodiversity in trust for humanity to ensure its availability for breeding and other uses now and in the future. CIP employs cryopreservation of living plant material at -196°C and backs up its seed collection at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, as well maintains a vast herbarium collection supporting scientific research. We also work closely with Andean communities on in situ conservation of potato diversity and have repatriated thousands of accessions previously lost to them due to civil unrest, disease or climate change.

The genebank serves as a model through its advanced research, public database and interactive use of collections. CIP works with other genebanks to ensure that clean material from its collections is backed-up, preventing the loss of diversity already in conservation. Safeguarding crop biodiversity and enhancing the efficiency of genetic resources conservation play critical roles in facilitating the development and release of new varieties for farmers and consumers across the globe.

Research-for-development program products

News categorized from the Biodiversity for the future program

Projects from the Biodiversity for the future program

Publications from the Biodiversity for the future program