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International Rice Genebank

The International Rice Genebank, maintained by IRRI, holds more than 124,000 rice accessions that include modern and traditional varieties and wild relatives of rice. It is the biggest collection of rice genetic diversity in the world. Countries from all over the world have sent their rice samples to IRRI for safe keeping as well as for sharing.

Traditional varieties and wild species of rice are increasingly dying out through genetic erosion. Farmers adopt new varieties and cease growing the kinds that they have nurtured for generations, resulting in the eventual loss of the traditional varieties.

Wild species are threatened with extinction as their habitats are destroyed by human activity. Future rice improvement needs the genetic variation from traditional varieties and related wild species in order for the crop to withstand stresses—either biotic (caused by living organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and parasites) or abiotic (caused by the elements, such as drought and flooding)—that challenge rice production around the world.

IRRI—in partnership with national programs and regional and international organizations worldwide and the International Rice Genebank—works to ensure the long-term preservation of rice biodiversity as part of a global strategy to conserve rice genetic resources.

The rice species

The different species of rice conserved at the International Rice Genebank include:

  • Oryza sativa or Asian rice, which is the most commonly grown and consumed type. It probably had its origin between the Himalayas and Indochina and is made up of two major groups: indica and japonica.
  • Oryza glaberrima or African rice, which originated in West Africa. It is not widely cultivated but has been used to breed other types of rice grown in Africa.
  • Twenty-three wild species of rice that are found in Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. Only a few are closely related to Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima.

rice varietiesStoring rice seed

Each type of rice at the International Rice Genebank is stored in both the base (-20 °C, long-term storage) and active ( 2–4 °C, for distribution) collections. We continually assess our procedures to ensure that we are doing our best to conserve this vital genetic resource for future generations.

Sharing rice seed

Following extensive negotiation among all contributing countries, IRRI now manages the rice collection stored in the International Rice Genebank under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. We supply free samples of various types of rice seed to any prospective user upon request, according to the conditions of the Treaty.

Genetic information

With access to the world’s largest collection of rice, we have a unique opportunity to study the diversity of rice. IRRI characterizes rice for its traits and genetic makeup to find useful gene versions.

We work with the International Network for the Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER), a global model for the exchange, evaluation, release, and use of genetic resources. The data on all rice types conserved at IRRI are managed and maintained by an information system known as the International Rice Genebank Collection Information System (IRGCIS).