The role of CGIAR Germplasm Health Units in averting endemic crop diseases: the example of rice blast in Bangladesh

March 10, 2022 - Author: Yuji Enriquez, , Nelissa Jamora, Mohammod Hossain & Lava Kumar

Enriquez, Y., Smale, M., Jamora, N., Hossain, M., & Kumar, L. (2022). The role of CGIAR Germplasm Health Units in averting endemic crop diseases: the example of rice blast in Bangladesh. CABI Agriculture and Bioscience, 3(1).



One of the less known benefits of the CGIAR is the facilitation of international agricultural research for crop improvement by providing a continuous supply of breeding materials for the development of disease resistant varieties. The Germplasm Health Units (GHUs) of the CGIAR are phytosanitary mechanisms put in place to help ensure safe (from pests and diseases) and efficient international transfer of germplasm among genebanks and breeding programs around the world. To date, there is no systematic documentation of the pathways and extent to which GHUs contribute to economic impact in recipient countries.


We conducted interviews with key experts and reviewed secondary literature and data to trace the pathways through which the GHU of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) contributes to the impact of breeding for rice blast. We applied an ex ante economic surplus framework to the case of rice blast in Bangladesh, considering productivity maintenance and time saving factors from GHU facilitation. Data were drawn from a national panel dataset of farm households (from 2013 to 2016 with about 4490 households) and field surveys of blast incidence and severity (from 2011 to 2012 in 10 agroecological zones). We augmented our model with Monte Carlo sampling to simulate distributions of parameters.


Our model predicts that, in the most probable scenario (modal values), the IRRI GHU contributed about US$ 5.9 million of the total US$ 295 million net benefits over a 20-year time frame of continuous blast resistance breeding and deployment. In the most optimistic conditions (maximum), the IRRI GHU contributed as much as US$ 62 million of the US$ 1.46 billion benefits. The modal benefit–cost ratio of the GHU in this breeding program alone was estimated at 112. The results are sensitive to the rate of yield savings, which is contingent on yield levels, timing of deployment, effectiveness of resistance, and lifespan of resistance to blast.


The study reinforces the important, and often overlooked, role of the GHUs in the international agricultural research that aims to enhance genetic gains in crops through efficient and timely access to clean and healthy germplasm.



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