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Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement

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The Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement belongs to the Division of Crop Biotechnics of the Department of Biosystems  of the  Faculty of Bioscience Engineering of the University of Leuven (KU Leuven).

It was founded in 1978 by Prof em. E. De Langhe, the founding director of  INIBAP (International Network for the Improvement of bananas and plantain, now part of   Bioversity Internationaland has a long tradition to collaborate with the CGIAR. This resulted in a  MOU with IITA and in a  MOU with Bioversity International.

It has a staff strength of ± 40 people and  long tradition to conduct research on bananas for development.



The Laboratory of Tropical Crop Improvement focuses its research on breeding tropical crops by integrating conventional breeding with molecular breeding, functional genomics and phenotyping. The Laboratory also actively contributes to safeguarding biodiversity. Therefore it hosts the Bioversity International office in Belgium.

Prof. R.L. Swennen, head of the laboratory, teaches at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate level.


The improvement of the livelihood of subsistence farmers in the tropics through sustainable agriculture by acting as a bridge between fundamental research on model plants and applied research in support of the improvement of tropical crops, with special emphasis on banana and plantain.



Education (BSc, MSc and PhD level)

Courses taught by prof. Swennen.

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Fundamental and applied research needs to lead to applications by smallholders in the tropics, the industry and the society both in the temperate and tropical regions. This is also a two way approach as such applications result to feedback to science.

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Bioversity International office, Belgium

The International Transit Centre hosts the world banana collection consisting of nearly 1544 accessions. This is conserved under in vitro conditions (medium term), as a cryopreserved collection and lyophilized leaf collection. Therefore a MOU was signed between Bioversity International and KU Leuven and international agreement made between Bioversity and the Kingdom of Belgium. Germplasm can be ordered online.