Genetic resources conservation is vital to global food security and poverty alleviation. IITA’s Genetic Resources Center (GRC) plays a major role in the conservation of seed crop germplasm in order to prevent the genetic erosion of these crop species and maintain a genetic base for crop improvement.

IITA conserves a collection of seed crops that includes cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), soybean (Glycine max), maize (Zea mays), Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea), African yam bean (Sphenostylis stenocarpa), wild vigna (Wild Vigna species) and some miscellaneous legumes (Annex 1). The seeds are maintained at both medium and long term cold storage at a temperature of 50C and -200C, respectively.

Accessions at IITA are conserved for the purpose of research, breeding and training for food and agriculture in the framework of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The Genetic Resource Center’s aim is to conserve its plant genetic resources under conditions that meet and exceed recognized international standards based on current technologies and scientific knowledge.



Crops Number of Accessions
Cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) 15,379
Soybean.(Glycin max) 4,841
Bambara groundnut (Vigna subterranea) 1,913
Maize(Zea mays) 1,561
Wild vigna species 1,543
African Yambean (Sphenostylis stenocarpa) 456
Total 25,693


In situ conservation

This type of conservation refers to the conservation of germplasm in ecosystems and natural habitats and the maintenance and recovery of viable populations of species in their natural surroundings. In the case of domesticated or cultivated species, it refers to their conservation in the surroundings where they have developed their distinctive properties. This is generally done in protected areas mostly for the conservation of wild relatives, and on-farm or in home gardens for the conservation of cultivated species. This type of conservation is not described further the Crop Genebank Knowledge Base.

Ex situ conservation

This type of conservation is the storage of seeds or plant material under artificial conditions (other than their natural environment), to efficiently and effectively guarantee its longevity viability and availability. It is the type of conservation mostly used in gene banks. It covers a range of methods suitable for various types of seeds or plant materials. It ranges from cold storage of seeds or propagules.

With ex situ conservation two types of storage are recognized: storage of samples for long-term security – referred to as base collections long-term storage and storage of samples for immediate use – referred to as active collections. medium term storage

The storage conditions and distribution arrangements of these stores vary.