HomeGlobal Seed VaultSeeds from critically endangered plant stored in the Seed Vault

Seeds from critically endangered plant stored in the Seed Vault

Date: 25.02.2020 Author: Sara Landqvist Category: Global Seed Vault
Frölåda från NordGen inuti Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Smith’s brome is a critically endangered grass. Today, NordGen stored seeds from it and other Nordic plants in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The seed deposit is the largest ever, seen to number of participating depositors. It was attended by the Norwegian Prime Minister, the president of Ghana and about 80 experts on biological diversity from five continents.

The seeds of the world’s genebanks are usually stored in a temperature of – 18°C. Today, the same temperatures could be experienced by those attending the Seed Vault’s largest seed deposit ever, with 35 participating genebanks. NordGen could also welcome eight new genebanks, depositing seeds for the very first time.

“It’s amazing to see the trust the world shows us by letting us safeguard the backup of their invaluable genetic resources. To be part of this initiative, to manage the seeds from the world’s hard working genebanks and thereby contributing to a more sustainable planet, is a responsibility NordGen humbly and gratefully shoulders”, Lise Lykke Steffensen, Executive of NordGen, said.

Diversity of seeds

More than 65 000 new seed samples were deposited in the Seed Vault at this occasion. Coriander from Morocco, wild emmer wheat from Israel, wild rice varieties from Costa Rica and sesame from Thailand are just a few examples. This time, the Nordic countries will send three seed boxes to Svalbard, containing almost 2 000 different seed samples of cucumber, barley, beans, oats and much more. It is the eleventh time NordGen is sending security duplicates of the Nordic seeds to Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Johan Axelsson“This means that almost 27 000 of our totally 33 000 seed samples are duplicated in the Seed Vault now. For the Nordic countries, this means an extra level of security for the genetic resources that are needed to adapt our agriculture to the challenges ahead”, Johan Axelsson, who is responsible for NordGen’s seed laboratory, said.

According to Johan Axelsson, the critically endangered Smith’s brome is among the seeds sent to Svalbard this time. Smith’s brome is a purple grass growing in pastures. Today, it only grows in a couple of places in Denmark and Sweden. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has developed a conservation plan for the plant which can be read here.

“Smith’s brome and the other 33 000 seed samples which NordGen conserve are important for adapting the Nordic agriculture to climate change. The seeds are the basis for the Nordic plant breeding, which is needed to produce our food in the future”, Lise Lykke Steffensen said.

Highly profiled guests

NordGen is running the Seed Vault in collaboration with the Norwegian Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the international organization Crop Trust. The three partners have jointly invited genebank representatives from the whole world to follow their seeds to Svalbard this time, and also to participate in a summit on the theme “Genetic diversity for more resilient food systems”. Among the guests are also the Norwegian Prime Minister and the President of Ghana, who both are particularly committed to raising awareness for the UN’s SDG targets.

Erna Solberg“This deposit event is especially timely, given that 2020 is the deadline for meeting target 2.5 of SDG 2 on zero hunger, which calls on the international community to safeguard the genetic diversity of crops and livestock,’ said Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.