Global seed bank gets largest deposit since it first opened

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault.  Crop Trust.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault has received a major a new deposit of seeds from several hundred plant species. In a formal ceremony on February 25, 2020, hosted by the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and attended by international dignitaries, the seeds from 35 gene banks spread over all seven continents were placed in the underground vault, bringing the total number of preserved seed samples to over a million.

Located far above the Arctic Circle on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the world’s largest backup collection of seeds, acting as a bulwark against climate change and other threats to staple crop plants, vegetables, herbs, and some wild relatives. It’s located in its remote location because Spitsbergen is tectonically inactive and the vault’s underground construction 130 m (430 ft) above sea level keeps the seeds dry and relatively easy to maintain at −18° C (−0.4° F) even in the event of power failures.

According to the Crop Trust, one of the major partners in the Seed Vault, today’s deposit was the largest since the vault was opened in 2008 and the first major deposit since the facility underwent an upgrade to protect it against water damage in 2019. The first-time depositors include Cherokee Nation (USA), the University of Haifa (Israel), Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (Morocco), the Julius Kühn Institute (Germany), the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute, the Baekdudaegan National Arboretum (South Korea), Suceava Genebank ‘Mihai Cristea’ (Romania), and Kew Gardens (UK). This brings the total number of depositors to 85.

Foil containers for seed samples

Foil containers for seed samples.  Crop Trust.

“As the pace of climate change and biodiversity loss increases, there is new urgency surrounding efforts to save food crops at risk of extinction,” says Stefan Schmitz, Crop Trust Executive Director. “The large scope of today’s seed deposit reflects worldwide concern about the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss on food production, but more importantly it demonstrates a growing global commitment – from the institutions and countries that have made deposits today and indeed the world – to the conservation and use of the crop diversity that is crucial for farmers in their efforts to adapt to changing growing conditions.”

Source: Crop Trust

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