Daniel Debouck, of CIAT’s Genetic Resources Unit, receives the inaugural Crop Trust Legacy Award. Photo by: Neil Palmer / Crop Trust


The Crop Trust has named Daniel Debouck, who for many years led the CIAT Genetic Resources Program, as one of the recipients of its inaugural award recognizing “global gatekeepers” of crop diversity.

Debouck, together with six others, received the Crop Trust Legacy Award on Sunday (Feb. 25) during a ceremony in Svalbard, Norway. It’s part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

The award adds to the illustrious career of Debouck, who is credited for building the world’s largest collection of bean samples.

Currently, the CIAT gene bank has nearly 38,000 accessions of beans. Altogether, it houses almost 68,000 accessions, including those of cassava and forages.

“I am extremely honored to be selected for the Crop Trust’s inaugural Legacy Award, among such highly esteemed colleagues,” said Debouck, who over close to four decades has discovered more a dozen new species of beans. “I am profoundly grateful to the Crop Trust, which has helped me many times to realize my aspirations to collect, rescue, and conserve one of the world’s most important crops.”

In 2010, the Crop Science Society of America presented Debouck with the Frank N. Meyer Memorial Medal for Plant Genetic Resources. Last year, the government of Belgium bestowed him with its highest recognition, the Order of Leopold.

Many of this year’s Legacy Award recipients are retiring managers of gene banks at CGIAR centers.

“The Crop Trust Legacy Award recipients are the global gatekeepers of crop diversity, having spent decades committed to their belief in the absolute importance of seed conservation,” Crop Trust Executive Director Marie Haga said in a press release. “They understand — and have helped thousands of others learn about — the deep connection between seeds, our agricultural history, and our future. Without the passion and dedication of these scientists the world would be a far less rich, far less diverse place.”

The award ceremony coincided with the shipment of seeds of 323 crop varieties from the CIAT gene bank to the Svalbard seed vault.

Altogether, the latest total shipments from gene banks around the globe to the renowned seed vault involved more than 70,000 unique crop varieties. These bring the number of seed samples that the Arctic facility has received since 2008 to more than a million.

The CGIAR gene banks deposit seeds of food and forage crops to the Svalbard seed vault as a form of insurance. The seed vault aims to offer a safe and secure place for these gene banks to back up their collections, which they can withdraw in case of man-made or natural catastrophes.

“Gene banks are the backbone of CGIAR innovation,” CGIAR System Organization Executive Director Elwyn Grainger-Jones said in press release. “They ensure that thousands of scientists – across CGIAR and beyond – are able to breed crops that are more resilient, productive and nutritious. Recognising these gene bank managers is to pay a debt of gratitude to them, for dedicating their professional lives to conserving and sharing crop diversity.”

Check out the below video to know more about the Crop Trust Legacy Awards.

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