Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (test)

Plant breeding programs in Costa Rica

Geographical situation of Costa RicaLocated only about eight degrees north of the equator, Costa Rica enjoys a tropical climate year-round. Even if declining, agriculture in Costa Rica remains an active sector of the economy, and is characterized by the production of a wide range of crops. Coffee, rice, wheat and sugar cane are the most important ones.

Research on plant genetic improvement initiated in Costa Rica approximately 50 years ago. Nearly 60% of the research is done in different experimental stations or research centres of the University of Costa Rica. Thirty-four percent is conducted by companies dedicated to flower production, and the remaining 8% corresponds to the research done by an institute dedicated to the culture of coffee -- ICAFE.

Plant breeding began with the crop of greatest economic importance for the country at the time -- coffee. Later, and in association with the creation of the public universities, other crops have been the subject of breeding programs, among them: maize, rice, potato, cocoyam, yams, sweet pepper, papaya, pejibaye, sugarcane and beans. The work consists of the evaluation of varieties developed in other countries or at international research centres like CIP and CIAT. The use of biotechnology, as tools for genetic improvement, is more recent

The major constraint of plant breeding in Costa Rica is of a political nature. Indeed, Costa Rica has historically depended on its agricultural production, but has paradoxically never had a policy to promote the development of plant breeding programs. Moreover, most of the institutions had financial difficulties in maintaining their research programmes and the distribution of the funds between the different crops is not equal: coffee and sugar cane receive the lion’s share of the resources, whereas the other crops struggle with an insufficient budget.

Research and education institutes with activities in plant breeding

Public Institutes


Research Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology - Centro de Investigación en Biología Celular y Molecula (CIBCM)
Website available in Spanish

The CIBCM of the University of Costa Rica (UCR) is focused on the breeding of two crops: rice and coffee. This group initiated its activities 9 years ago in the area of biotechnology and 24 years ago in the area of plant breeding. Its personnel are dedicated mainly to genetic breeding through biotechnology, specifically by means of genetic engineering. This group is within the most important research center on molecular biology of the country.


Agricultural Research Centre - Centro de Investigaciones Agronómicas (CIA)
Website available in English and Spanish

The Plant Biotechnology Laboratory (LBP) of the Agricultural Research Center (CIA-UCR) has as one of its main objectives research on the crops like tropical roots and tubers. These crops include potato, cocoyam, yam and cassava, but the research in breeding has been focused only on the first two. This group has been involved in plant breeding since 13 years ago.

UCR Biology

Laboratory of Biotechnology - Laboratorio de Biotecnología en Biología (BIOLOGIA-UCR)
Website available in Spanish

For the last 18 years the Plant Biotechnology Laboratory of the Biology Department at the University of Costa Rica, has been oriented to plant breeding through genetic engineering. It started its research with rice in 1990 and in maize in 1995, with the goal of introducing resistance genes to the Rice Hoja Blanca Virus (RHBV) and to the maize stripe virus (MStpV). Later, it initiated research on other crops like savila.


National University - Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica (UNA), Escuela de Biología
Website available in Spanish

Plant breeding in UNA focuses on banana, rice and yam.

Public/Private Institute


Coffee Institute of Costa Rica - Instituto del Café de Costa Rica(ICAFE)
Website available in Spanish

ICAFE was founded in 1948 by the Defence Institute. This is a private-public organization assigned to the Ministry of Economy. The ICAFE is the governing and controller organism of the national coffee activity. The ICAFE has been involved in coffee breeding for 59 years and initiated research in the area of biotechnology 9 years ago. This institute provides a constant financing of 5% of the total of amount assigned for research, to plant breeding programs, which has allowed the company to maintain stable research personnel within its organization.

Private Institutes

Sakata Seed

Website available in English

Sakata Seed Corporation, headquartered in Yokohama, Japan became the first Japanese company to export seed and has since been actively involved in the development of new and improved plant varieties around the world. Sakata's overseas activities have earned it a reputation for quality in over 130 countries. By making full use of the climate and environmental conditions in various regions around the world, SAKATA develops new varieties ideally suited to a wide range of environments. In Costa Rica, SAKATA works on ornamental flowers, namely Impatiens and Petunia.

no website

Division of Sugarcane Research - División de Investigación en Caña de Azúcar (DIECA)
No Website available

DIECA is a Costa Rican private company that has been involved in the improvement of sugarcane during last the 27 years. During the last 9 years, biotechnological tools have also been part of the breeding program. DIECA has continued increasing the number of varieties released since 1980.


Information by Dr Francisco Saborío Pozuelo, Dr Arturo Brenes Angulo (2005) - Information based on the Costa Rica's full report from the PBBC survey. Last revised 31-07-2009, GIPB