The most visited
Germplasm Bank (Seed Collection)

In this facility you can see how orthodox seeds from the most diverse families are preserved at -18o C; beans, corn, squash, peppers and tomatoes, among many others. The Bank, or Seed Collection, is the last in a series of steps required for the conservation of germplasm (genetic material). It all starts with field collections where fruits are cultivated and harvested to obtain the seeds that will then be preserved using a strict process.

Experience in the preservation and restoration of these materials, accompanied by a selection of the best technical staff, allows top notch work to ensure the existence of the seeds that are essential for global food security over the long term.

Knowledge of these procedures will be an enriching experience about their importance and the methodology used in seed preservation, and it will improve the sources of the foods that come to our table every day.

The use of freezing chambers as Germplasm Banks for the preservation of orthodox seeds reduces the use of large tracts of land and genetic erosion, it lowers costs and relieves pressure on protected areas, and allows the development of improved varieties.

Approximate duration of tour: two hours.

 Germplasm Bank for Orthodox Seeds

CATIE’s Germplasm Bank for Orthodox Seeds was started in 1976 in Turrialba, Costa Rica, in order to locate, collect, conserve and characterize germplasm from plants of priority interest for the wellbeing of mankind due to their attributes, as well as the provision of scientific knowledge for optimizing conservation.

The germplasm conserved in this bank, due to its genetic diversity, is used to develop biodiverse sustainable agriculture in the region that is competitive, with the aim of contributing to food security and combating rural poverty.

In this conservation effort, CATIE brings to the scientific community and the various productive sectors, the raw material for research and agricultural production, using different genera and species preserved in its cold chamber at -18° C.

Families conserved:

Cucurbitaceae = 2783 accessions

Solanaceae = 2188 accessions

Fabaceae = 1646 accessions

Poaceae = 429 accessions

Amaranthaceae = 300 accessions

Other families = 14 accessions

Total accessions = 7,360


Contact us!

Daniel Fernández
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Head of Germplasm Bank for Orthodox Seeds
Commercial Division
Tel. (506) 2558-2223

Our Collections and Germplasm Banks are a treasure

We conserve thousands of genetic samples from various parts of the world.

A major species conservation task, such as germplasm banks for plants from tropical America, constitutes a real treasure for CATIE in the field of crop research, preservation and improvement. This treasure of ours consists of the International Coffee Collection, the International Cocoa Collection and the Germplasm Banks for peach palm, annatto, guava and exotic fruits.

Other Germplasm Banks

Germplasm Bank for Pejibaye or Peach Palm (Bactris gasipaes)

Our collection of peach palm (Bactris gasipaes) conserves more than 600 introductions from Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia.

In pre-Columbian American cultures this fruit was one of the most desired of that era due to its exquisite flavor and high nutritional value.

Peach palm is native to South America, Panama and Costa Rica. The palm is cultivated for the fruits and for heart of palm, which is a valuable product for local consumption and export.

We can say with pride and ownership that the peach palm production technique for heart of palm was developed by CATIE in the 1970’s and then disseminated to the rest of America.

Germplasm Bank for Annatto (Bixa orellana)

The collection has about 100 introductions collected in countries of Central and South America, such as Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, Peru and Panama.

Annatto is native to tropical America. The red color obtained from the seeds of annatto is used as a natural food coloring in preparing foods and in the dermatology and cosmetic industries. The plant is used to improve degraded soils.

Germplasm Bank for Guava (Psidium sp)

The collection has over 60 introductions from Honduras, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Cuba, the United States, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia.

Guava is native to tropical America. It is characterized by its range of flavors, pulp colors, fruit size and shapes.

It is one of the most nutritious fruits due to its high content of vitamin A, Vitamin C and iron. The fruit is consumed in juices (diluted with water), preserves, jams and nectar.

Germplasm Bank for Exotic Fruit Trees

CATIE’s exotic fruit collections conserve about 160 introductions of trees from around the world, distributed in 30 families and 95 species. The collection includes fruit, ornamental and timber trees.

Some of the identified species are:

Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus). Originally from the Indomalaya region, it produces some of the largest of all fruits directly on the trunk. The pulp is eaten raw or made into candies and the seeds are eaten roasted or cooked.

Litchi (Litchi chinensis). Native to southern China and Vietnam. It has been known since 2000 BC. It now occurs in India, Japan, Syria and the Mediterranean. Also known as “Chinese plum”, it is considered one of the world’s finest fruits.

“Devil tree” (Alstonia scholaris). This tree was used to cure malaria and its wood was used in India to make blackboards for schoolchildren.

Contact us!

Carlos Alberto Cordero Vargas, MGA

Head of Plant Genetic Collections

Commercial Division

Tel. (506) 2558-2222, 2558-2355

Fax (506) 2556-5246

International Cocoa Collection (IC3)

A global treasure under the aegis of CATIE

Since the 1940s, CATIE has preserved in perpetuity its cocoa germplasm collection (IC3), a significant representation of the broad genetic diversity that the species possesses in tropical America. In addition to conservation, the collection’s fundamental goal is to provide plant material for genetic enhancement studies of various kinds as well as propagation material for the breeding programs and the establishment of commercial plantations in different countries. The CATIE collection is a potential source of clones with remarkable features, such as resistance to pests and diseases, high polyphenol contents, resistance to extreme conditions, short stature, etc. Consequently, their conservation is a priority for solving many of the present and future problems that affect these crops.

Since 1978, the IC3 has held the rank of international collection awarded by the IBPGR (now Bioversity) and since 2005 it has been under the auspices of the FAO and the umbrella of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). This places it as the first field collection in the world in the public domain.

Origin: The International Cocoa Collection of CATIE (IC3) was initiated in Turrialba, Costa Rica in 1944 as part of the strategy of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to promote the distribution and exchange of germplasm for valuable tropical crops.

Location: All species of Theobroma and Herrania are recalcitrant, so they can only be maintained in field collections. IC3 was originally established in the CATIE sector known as Cabiria. In 2005, two replications of it were begun on La Montaña farm in Turrialba at 602 meters above sea level and on the La Lola farm at 28 Millas from Limon at 40 masl, both belonging to CATIE. This way the collection is backed up at three different sites, which is a unique feature of this collection.

Composition: IC3 contains nearly 1,200 clones of cacao (Theobroma cacao), mainly from tropical America, which is the center of origin and diversity of this species, particularly in the upper reaches of the Amazon basin. The collection also includes clones obtained in Africa, Asia and Oceania and other cultivated species of the genus Theobroma such as T. bicolor (pataste) and T. grandiflorum (cupuaçu), or wild species such as T. angustifolium, T. mammosum, T. microcarpum, T. subincanum, T. simiarum and T. speciosum. The genus Herrania, which is the genus most closely related genetically to Theobroma, is represented by seven species: H. albiflora, H. baloensis, H. cuatrecasana, H. nycterodendron, H. nítida, H. purpure and H. umbratica. The collection is enriched annually by introducing clones from the quarantine station at the University of Reading in England and from other reliable sources.

With the collaboration of the Department of Agriculture of the United States (USDA-ARS), every tree of the collection is being confirmed using DNA techniques. In this way it aims to identify materials that are duplicates, mixed, or that do not correspond to the original type.