Saving seed - in case

Svalbard Global Seed Vault co-ordinator Asmund Asdal, from the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre, holds the New Zealand seed package. Photo: Nordgen.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault co-ordinator Asmund Asdal, from the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre, holds the New Zealand seed package. Photo: Nordgen.
AgResearch has deposited a collection of seeds in a remote Arctic doomsday vault to guard against the loss of plant species through war, disease or disaster striking New Zealand.

The deposit was made via an airmailed package to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a secure facility on the rugged Arctic Svalbard archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole.

It is the second delivery of its kind from AgResearch's Margot Forde Germplasm Centre (MFGC) following an agreement established last year.

The germplasm centre, in Palmerston North, is home to thousands of species including forage crops used to farm livestock in New Zealand - some developed for specific traits and environments - and herbs and legumes, and endangered plant species.

Deposits from the germplasm centre to the Svalbard vault will continue annually to build up a sufficiently diverse collection of plant species of interest to New Zealand agriculture, including those collected from all over the world.

''We want to ensure that should a major event happen in New Zealand like earthquake, fire, or a serious plant disease that wipes out the collection held at MFGC or a specific plant species of interest to agriculture, we have a back-up to draw on so they are not lost to us forever,''MFGC director, Dr Kioumars Ghamkhar, said.

''You only have to look at Syria where civil war has resulted in widespread losses of plant genetic resources and agriculture as a whole, but some of this has been preserved thanks to seed stored at the Svalbard vault before the war.''

 

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