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A Little About SeedBanking

It’s no accident that most of the largest seed banks are operated by governmental agencies. Seed banking can be an expensive practice, and the most far-reaching programs are those fueled by economic incentives. Seedbanks worldwide are now seen as Insurance for Agriculture & Biodiversity. Without seedbanks, repair to the ecological systems affected by natural disasters becomes difficult and in some cases impossible to achieve in relatively short periods.

Seed banks are also known as seed archives, germplasm banks, and seed vaults, are gene banks for plants, and there are approximately 1,400 of them around the world. These seedbanks range from small, geographically specific ones that support horticultural research and local restoration to larger, overarching projects that seek to provide the means to sustain life in the face of possible mass ecological catastrophes.

One of the first ex situ seed banks, that is a seedbank that was situated away from the sites where seeds were taken from, was set up by a Russian geneticist and botanist Nikolai Vavilov in Leningrad and is still in operation. Known as the N.I. Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry (VIR), it is the only research institution in Russia whose activities include the collection and conservation of plant genetic material. Vavilov, between 1916 and 1933, and his helpers undertook expeditions, collecting more than 250,000 plant samples from around the world. Today, with outposts from Astrakhan to Zeya, the VIR encompasses 320,000 holdings of grain crops, legumes, groat crops, industrial crops, fodder crops, potatoes, vegetables, and herbs.

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