Crop Genebank Knowledge Base

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Safety duplication of forage legume genetic resources

Contributors to this page: ILRI, Ethiopia (Jean Hanson); ICARDA, Syria (Ahmed Amri, Kenneth Street, Ali Shehadeh, Natalya Rukhkyan); GRCTPL, Australia (Richard Snowball); Bioversity International/ILRI, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Alexandra Jorge).

When should it be used



Checking packets of seeds before dispatch for safety duplication (photo: ILRI)

For all original seeds collected by the genebank or only held by the genebank (seeds which are duplicates from other collections can usually be retrieved from those collections and do not require safety duplication unless there is doubt about their security in the other collection). See also the general page on safety duplication procedures.

Sample specifications

Minimum sample size

  • Minimum of 600 seeds (following FAO/IPGRI, 1994).
  • 500 seeds are acceptable for the blackbox in Svalbard (more info on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault can be found here and here).
  • 1000 seeds are preferable.

Viability for storage

  • More than 85% viability.

Moisture content

Container specifications


Packaging seeds for safety duplication (photo: ILRI)

Seed packaging method

  • Laminated aluminium foil (packets are moisture proof and very practical, making good use of space).
  • Use of vacuum for packing is optional.
  • Packing is best carried out in an air-conditioned room with controlled humidity as soon as possible after drying (rapid packaging in a dry environment prevents reabsorption of moisture by the seeds during packaging).

Specifications of packaging material

  • Minimum quality: outer polyester of 12 µm thickness, middle aluminium layer of 9 µm thickness and inner polythene layer of 55µm (this thickness is impermeable, sufficiently flexible for handling and strong enough for forage legume seeds, which are usually smooth).

Storage specifications



Safety duplication box ready to go to Svalbard (photo: ILRI)

Assigning location codes in boxes

  • Boxes are numbered and lists of seeds per box maintained in a database (use of internal partitions increases weight and costs and in most cases entire boxes are returned to owner).

Storage conditions

  • Long-term storage (long-term storage is needed to ensure the longevity of seeds in safety duplication and the costs of preparing and shipping safety duplicates is not economic if storage is for short periods).

Shipping method

  • Courier or air freight or any rapid method (transport method should avoid heating and delays in transport).


Common CGIAR agreements should be used:

  • Standard agreement.
  • Special agreement for Svalbard.
  • Phytosanitary certificate.
  • Certificate of origin.
  • Certificate of no-commercial value.
  • Electronic and hard copy of associated passport information; GMO-free certificate (if required).

References and further reading

FAO/IPGRI. 1994. Genebank standards. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome and International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, Rome. Available in English, Spanish, French and Arabic .

NordGen. 2008. Agreement between (depositor) and the Royal Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food concerning the deposit of seeds in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. [online] The Svalbard Gloal Seed Vault, The Nordic Genetic Resource Centre, Alnarp, Sweden. Available from: Date accessed: 23 March 2010.

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International Agricultural Research Centres who worked together to make this site possible:
Africa Rice Center | Bioversity International | CIAT | CIMMYT | CIP | ICARDA | ICRISAT | IFPRI | IITA | ILRI | IRRI |

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