More than 30 000 new seeds arrive at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The UN General Assembly’s  designation of 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables was well reflected in this week’s deposit of seeds at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Tomatoes, peppers and African vegetables such as spider plant and amaranth, melons, sorghum, collards and beans were among the 50 vegetable species from 5 continents added to the Seed Vault shelves for long-term security storage.

The World Vegetable Center

 The World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg), an international agricultural research institute located in Taiwan which has frequently sent duplicate seeds from its collection to the seed vault, deposited another 11 771 seed samples this week.

WorldVeg maintains the world’s largest international vegetable germplasm collection, and according to Maarten van Zonneweld, WorldVeg’s Genebank Manager, “we want to have more than 90 percent of our collection duplicated and safely stored in Svalbard by 2025 – ideally the 65 000 accessions that make up the whole collection. It is our responsibility to ensure this collection is safeguarded according to international genebank standards, and that includes long-term, back-up duplication in Svalbard.”

Sudan’s Sorghum Selection

The Agricultural Plant Genetic Resources Conservation and Research Center (APGRC) of Sudan shipped 351 seed samples to the Seed Vault, the majority from the genus Sorghum, a flowering plant grown as a cereal for human consumption and for animal feed. APGRC has more than 5 000 sorghum accessions, the largest element of its collection. Center Director El Tahir Ibrahim Mohamed calls sorghum “an important crop for our nation.”

This deposit, the third that APGRC has made to the Seed Vault, also included sesame, beans and tomatoes and, according to the director, “The number of tomato accessions being backed up in this deposit were introduced to our country a long time ago.”

US Home-grown Seeds

The US-based NGO, Seed Savers Exchange (SSE),  makes regular seed deposits to the Seed Vault. Because of the pandemic, this new deposit of approximately 130 varietes was a bit smaller than usual.

“Many of the seed samples we are depositing come from home gardeners who have grown these varieties for decades and across generations. The varieties have adapted to their local and regional climates and may be important ones for growing under the conditions of climate change,” said Philip Kauth, SSE Director of Preservation.

Crucial for food and nutrition security

With this June deposit, the world’s largest collection of crop diversity located in one place reached a total of more than 1.1 million seed samples.  One more 2021 deposit is scheduled for October.

“To ensure food and nutrition security, crop diversity collections must have a back-up – a safety duplication copy,” said Stefan Schmitz, Executive Director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust which provided funds for transporting Sudan’s shipment. “We were honored to support the APGRC in Sudan in making this deposit. The Seed Vault is our planet’s ultimate back-up, and our aim is that all crop collections around the world will seize the opportunity to back-up their seeds in the Seed Vault for generations to come.”

Norway’s Minister of Agriculture and Food, Olaug Bollestad, added that “preventing the loss of biodiversity within such an important nutrition source as vegetables is crucial. It will provide us with resources needed to adapt the agriculture of the future to a changing climate.”

The Seed Vault was established and is owned by the Government of Norway, and operated under a partnership of the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, NordGen – the Nordic countries’ gene bank, and the international organisation, the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

 Institutions Participating in the June Deposit