Establishment in field banks of forage grass genetic resources

Contributors to this page: ILRI, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Jean Hanson); CIAT, Cali, Colombia (Rainer Schultze-Kraft); Bioversity International/ILRI, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Alexandra Jorge).

Preparation of planting materials
Field establishment
Information management

Preparation of planting material

Cleaning propagules/seeds in field banks

Field genebanks for grasses are usually planted using root splits or stem cuttings. For shy seeders, where only few seeds are available, they can also be established from seeds that are first germinated in the laboratory and transplanted to the field using similar sample processing procedures to those for seed establishment for forage seed genebanks.

Source of planting material in field banks

Using seeds

Seeds are used in the case of recalcitrant seeds that are difficult to keep for a long time in a seed genebank or for shy seeders where few seeds are produced.

Seeds should be germinated in petri dishes in an incubator. The conditions vary with species (see table for use in germination testing).

See also germplasm testing section in the viability page in forage seed, for more details.

Using stem cuttings

Using new root splits


Visual inspection of plant material

Disposal of contaminated material

Recording information during the preparation of planting material

The following information should be recorded for each processing step:

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 Field establishment

Field preparation

Field planting

Empty plots waiting to be planted in the grass field genebank of Zwai, Ethiopia (photo: ILRI)

Grass field genebank in Zwai, Ethiopia
(photo: ILRI)

Frequency of new establishment

Field maintenance and management

Weed management



Common pest and diseases

Pest and disease control

Renovation of field bank

Harvesting seeds from grass field banks

Sometimes, there is a need to collect seeds from already established field genebanks in order to increase some seed stocks (many grasses have short-lived seeds or shy seeds – i.e. they do seed, but rarely or have a few caryopses). Seeds may be used to overcome difficulties in distributing vegetative material (due to pests and diseases, quarantine regulations or high volume /cost of transportation). In these cases, there is a need to isolate the seeds so they do not cross pollinate, and there are two main options to harvest seeds for dispatch:


Bagging and tagging

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Information management

System for tracking material/inventory system in field banks

Recording information during field bank establishment

The following information should be recorded during storage:

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The Genebanks

The 11 CGIAR genebanks currently conserve 730,000 of cereals and grain legumes, forage crops, tree species, root and tuber crops, bananas and crop wild relatives.