Two new first-time depositors welcomed to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Latvian delegation depositing their first seeds to the Seed Vault together with NordGen staff and Geir Dalholt from the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food (to the right)

Representatives from these two gene banks participated in the seed deposit and received certificates personally signed by the Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food, Sandra Borch as an acknowledgement of the two institutions as depositors to the Seed Vault.

This week a total of 50 boxes filled with seeds from 12 depositors were brought into Svalbard Global Seed Vault. A broad diversity of crops was represented i

Dragan Petrović, Serbians ambassador to Norway receives the certificate signed by the Norwegian Minister of Agriculture and Food Ms. Sandra Borch

n the seed boxes, cereals, corn, herbs and several species of African forages.

With this month’s two new depositors, 89 institutions around the world have backed-up precious crop diversity in the Arctic permafrost. The deposits do not alter the ownership to the seeds and only the depositor can withdraw their seeds and open the boxes.

The Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops (IFVCNS) from Serbia deposited 96 seed samples, most of which were different wheat species. This first Serbian deposit was supported by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

Traditional Crops from Latvia

The other new depositor is the Genetic Resource Center/LMVI ’Silava’, which is based in Latvian Riga. The center has been working for three years to regenerate the seed samples sent to Svalbard. 153 seed samples of 30 different species were safety duplicated, most of the crops have been of great importance to the country.

“The seed samples being sent to Svalbard are all varieties that have been developed in Latvia, and represent crops that are agriculturally and culturally important for Latvia. Barley, flax and wheat making up over half of the number of deposited seed samples,” says Dainis Ruņģis, gene bank manager at ’Silava’.

“From the perspective of Latvian cuisine, of course we also have grey peas, dill and caraway in this deposit.”

Representatives from the Latvian Ministry of Agriculture were also present when the seed samples from the new depositors were brought into the Vault.

“The conservation and sustainable use of genetic diversity is crucial to meet the challenges of adapting to climate change. Depositing seeds in Svalbard guarantees their safety and shows that the entire world can work to reach a common goal of conserving precious genetic resources,” says Kristine Sirma, the Latvian Ministry’s head of Sustainable Agriculture Development Division.

Dainis Ruņģis, Genebank manager at the Latvian Gene bank (left) and Martins Klive, Latvia’s ambassador to Norway receives the certificate to the new depositor from Geir Dalholt, deputy director at the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

22 New Species in the Vault

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is headquartered in Nairobi but operates in a collaboration between Kenya and Ethiopia with 14 offices in Asia and Africa. The institute focuses on livestock work in developing countries, the conservation of forages is an important part. During the deposit, several new species entered the Vault, including various grass and legumes.

“22 species are safety duplicated up on Svalbard for the first time. Although our primary focus is conserving forages, some forage species have multiple uses. For example, the cowpea Vigna unguiculata is also used as a vegetable, says Alice Muchugi, ILRI’s gene bank manager.

The Largest Depositor

Another institution that participated in the deposit was the International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center, CIMMYT, which is headquartered in Mexico and is known as the world’s largest gene bank for maize and wheat. In the October deposit, CIMMYT had the largest number of seed samples (4051) and it is also the largest depositor in total. 177,850 seed samples of twelve species of wheat and maize from CIMMYT are now secured in the Seed Vault.

“Our goal is to send 90 percent of the collection by 2024. We are planning to send around 7,000 seed samples of wheat and 800 of corn annually,” says Rocío Quiroz Soto, Assistant Research Associate at CIMMYT.

“Personally, I am very pleased to carry out this activity that contributes to the conservation of genetic resources and to guarantee the food security of two of the largest food crops in the world.”

The new CIMMYT seed boxes brought into the Seed Vault for long time safety deposit, by Fredrik Kollberg in NordGen

This deposit coincides with the launch of a call for project proposals created by the Crop Trust in partnership with the Secretariat of the Plant Treaty, NordGen and the Norwegian Ministry of Food and Agriculture. The call will give gene banks in lower-income countries support to regenerate their crop collections and deposit them in the Seed Vault.

The October deposit means that there now are 1 125 416 seed samples stored in the Seed Vault. The next deposit is scheduled to be carried out in February 2022.

Institutions That  deposited seeds in the October Seed Deposit

Latvia: LMVI ‘Silava’, Genetic Resource Center.
Serbia: Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops, IFVCNS.
United Kingdom: John Innes Center
Kenya:  World Agroforestry, ICRAF.
Austria: Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, AGES,.

The Seed Vault approaching the dark time of the year

Kenya/Ethiopia: The International Livestock Research Institute, ILRI.
Mexico: International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center, CIMMYT
Peru: International Potato Center, CIP.
Botswana: SADC Plant Genetic Resource Center, SPGRC
South Korea; Rural Development Administration, RDA, .
Poland: National Center for Plant Genetic Resources, IHAR.
Thailand: National Rice Seed Storage Laboratory for Genetic Resources, NRSSL

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