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The Bioversity International Musa Germplasm Transit Centre (ITC) is home to the world’s largest collection of banana germplasm.

Its mission? To contribute to the secure long-term conservation of the entire banana genepool and hold the collection in trust for the benefit of future generations under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. 

The conserved germplasm is placed in the Multilateral System of Access and Benefit Sharing of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

The collection, which contains more than 1,500 accessions of edible and wild species of banana, is hosted at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) and is considered the richest source of banana (Musa) diversity globally. The accessions are kept in vitro under slow growth conditions at 16°C.

For security, samples are also frozen to -196 °C, the temperature of liquid nitrogen, in a process called cryopreservation. This means that material can be preserved indefinitely and revived into full banana plants as needed.

In addition, this frozen collection is safety duplicated at the Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) in Montpellier, France.

Germplasm that has been indexed as virus negative is freely available for international distribution upon request from the MGIS website. The material is accompanied by a health statement, phytosanitary certificate and a copy of the Standard Material Transfer Agreement.

Between 1985 and 2014 the ITC distributed over 17.000 samples of accessions to users in 109 countries. On average, 75% of the samples go to users in the main banana growing regions – Africa (27%) the Americas (25%) and Asia and Pacific (23%) with the remainder going to universities and research centres in Europe.

MusaNet is a global network of stakeholders striving to ensure the long-term conservation and utilization of Musa genetic resources. It provides a collaborative framework for the implementation of the Global Strategy for the Conservation and Use of Musa Genetic Resources.

The Musa Germplasm Information System (MGIS) is a database of phenotypic and genomic information on accessions of bananas (both wild and cultivated) conserved in field and in-vitro genebanks. On MGIS, you can search for or request  plant material.

Testing climate-smart banana varieties in a container

Scientists are testing banana varieties held in the International Musa Germplasm Transit Centre, Belgium, to see how each kind will fare in the African highlands climate. This type of climate is characterised by 'cold' nights and too little rain for the conventional banana plant – a climate recreated in a growth container with the help of Urban Crop Solutions.

When the study is concluded, the researchers want to be able to advise African farmers about which types of bananas would be best suited for their region.

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Taking advantage of the banana reference genome sequence and Next Generation Sequencing technologies, Bioversity International undertakes research to unravel the genetic diversity of banana and its associated traits conserved at the ITC. This research generates an unprecedented volume of important information for researchers and breeders.


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Trait and phenotyping

Bioversity International works with partners to evaluate the ITC material for important traits, such as resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, and nutrient content. Examples of this work include screening the accessions for vitamin A content, resistance to drought and Fusarium wilt

Featured publications


The work of the International Transit Centre is supported by the CGIAR Research Program for Managing and Sustaining Crop Collections, the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, CGIAR Fund Donors, the Crop Trust, BMZ - Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Belgian Development Cooperation, KU Leuven - Belgium.


Nicolas Roux, ITC Genebank Manager  
Ines Van den Houwe, ITC Genebank Curator
or visit the International Transit Centre website 



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