Catholic University Leuven, Belgium
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Division of Crop Biotechnics (BIOSYST)
Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement
The Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement, one of the 4 laboratories within the Division of Crop Biotechnics, was founded in 1978. It has a staff strength of ± 40 people based at K.U.Leuven. Prof R.L. Swennen and Prof. D. De Waele, the two members of academic staff, take part in the education of both undergraduate and postgraduate students at the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering with lectures and practical courses in the field of tropical agriculture and crop protection.
Research at the Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement is mainly focused on the improvement of the livelihood of subsistence farmers in the tropics through sustainable agriculture. The laboratory would like to act as the link between advanced biotechnological methods developed on model plants in the north and their application for the improvement of tropical crops in the south, with a special emphasis on banana and plantain.
The Laboratory wants to actively contribute to safeguarding biodiversity and produce high yielding varieties.
The Laboratory is housing the Bioversity's International Transit Centre (ITC), the world's largest in vitro collection of banana kept under the auspices of FAO. Until now, over 15,000 accessions have been supplied worldwide to 355 different locations in 100 countries. The International Transit Centre obtained in October 2003 an international status by the signing of an international agreement between Belgium and IPGRI (International Plant Genetic Resources Institute), now Bioversity International.
Bioversity International is one of the 15 international agri-research centres belonging to the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research). The CGIAR is an association of 64 independent public and private sector members, including the World Bank, FAO, IFAD and UNDP as co-sponsors.