Future Seeds

The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia holds the world’s largest repository of beans, cassava, and tropical forages. Future Seeds expands CIAT’s capacity to guarantee the continued existence of these plants which help nourish hundreds of millions of people.

Why crop diversity matters

75% Is Gone

As much as three quarters of the world’s crop biodiversity was lost during the 20th century. Future Seeds aims to save as much as possible of what still remains.

Why crop diversity matters


Rare crop varieties may have genes that help critical crops to withstand drought, disease, and extreme environmental events. Future Seeds enables scientists to discover and use these secrets.

Why crop diversity matters


$625: Average cost of preserving a crop variety in perpetuity at Future Seeds.

Why crop diversity matters

Scientific Breakthrough

Feeding nine billion people on a planet beset by climate change requires scientific breakthroughs, which will be made possible by Future Seeds.

The world is losing crop diversity at an alarming pace

Humanity relies on just a handful of crops. But these arose from a staggering diversity of wild and domesticated plants that nature, farmers and scientists produced over thousands of years. Today, many of these varieties are lost in the wild – and much of the crop diversity that remains is threatened. This is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. The staple crops of the future will need to draw on natural diversity to withstand the imminent environmental extremes.

Future Seeds is the acknowledgement that the preservation and study of crop diversity are essential to the future well-being of humanity. The nourishment of hundreds of millions of people depends on it.

The world’s 29 most important crops are worth

US$ Billion a year

How we will protect the future of our food

Future Seeds is the CIAT’s response to 21st century challenges facing global crop diversity. Future Seeds builds upon the Center’s decades-long record of maintaining global collections of tens of thousands of varieties of beans, cassava and tropical forages. As a repository of seeds, CIAT provides seeds to vulnerable farmers around the world. As a gene bank, it allows scientists to understand the hidden genetic traits of plants – many of which are now gone from farms and the wild.

Future Seeds contributes to the continued protection of humanity’s priceless reservoir of crop diversity. It also promotes scientific innovation to climate-proof staple crops, by expanding the digital dimension of the gene bank.


Future Seeds allows CIAT to continue to provide world-class conservation of bean, cassava, and tropical forages.


Future Seeds enables innovations in genomics and big-data technologies to drive a more data-driven and targeted use of crop diversity.


Located in the midst of a global biodiversity hotspot, Future Seeds serves as a platform to convene genetic-resources scientists from around the world.

A single gene hidden in a rare crop variety could make the difference between a robust harvest and a climate change-induced agricultural calamity. A single preserved crop variety could result in millions of dollars of economic benefits to the world’s most vulnerable farmers.

Based in Cali, Colombia, CIAT is home to the world’s largest collection of beans, cassava, and tropical forages.


Research using some of the 6,155 cassava varieties preserved in CIAT’s genebank has helped farmers improve yields and produce nutritious cassava roots with higher pro-vitamin A content.


Using some of the 37,938 bean varieties preserved at the gene bank, CIAT scientists and colleagues at the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) have bred 550 bean varieties for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. These varieties have higher yields, are more nutritious, and better tolerate drought.


Improved forage grasses bred from some of the 22,694 forage varieties in CIAT’s tropical forage collection can reduce powerful greenhouse gas emissions and, decrease water contamination, while also raising crop yields through more efficient use of fertilizer.

From Colombia to the world…

Since its inception, CIAT’s genebank has distributed more than half a million samples from 141 countries to more than 160 countries.

Resistance to pests and diseases

Crop diversity allows farmers to limit the spread of pests and diseases and reduces reliance on chemicals.

Adaptation to climate change

The development of crop varieties that tolerate heat, drought, flood, pests and diseases allows farmers to mitigate the impact of global environmental change.

Improved health and nutrition

Crop diversity allows scientists to breed varieties that are rich in micronutrients, such as pro-vitamin A, zinc, and iron, to improve nutrition and public health.

Improved livelihoods

Using crop diversity to improve varieties enables farmers to increase yields and take a larger proportion of their production to the market.


In the 50 years since it was established, CIAT has accrued a remarkable track record of science for development impact. It is recognized worldwide for its achievements in developing technologies, methods and knowledge that better enable farmers to enhance sustainable agriculture practices.

Rooted in a strong belief that working with partners is essential in order to achieve our mission, CIAT is a research center of CGIAR, a global research partnership whose science is carried out by 15 research centers in collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations worldwide, all working for a food-secure future.