1,300 kilometres away from the cold North Pole, on an island called Spitsbergen in Norway, lies a seed vault. But what need does the world have for a seed vault. Honestly, whether the world will survive post global crises or not, depends on this seed vault. Basically, Slavbard Global Seed Vault in Norway is an attempt to preserve a huge, vibrant collection of seeds in case a doomsday is just round the corner. This makes the Norwegian Seed Vaults one of the most secure vaults across the world. Yet, there are many other seed vaults, which are constructed for similar purposes. Let us have a look at the world’s largest seed banks, and how much the world needs them.
Chang La Seed Vault – India’s most secure seed vaults
At a mammoth height of 17,300 feet above the sea level, India houses its only back up plan for the nation’s food supply in case of a disaster or crisis – natural and man-made. The Chang- La seed vault in Ladakh is India’s own doomsday vault. Chang – La Seed Vault is the second-largest seed vault in the world; and thus, it is safe to say that India’s future in food is in the right vaults.
Chang-La Seed Vault is home to more than 5,000 seed accessions, which indeed makes it one of the world’s largest seed banks. Moreover, the seed vault houses an extraordinary variety of seeds such as carrots, cabbages, apricots, and tomatoes.
Chang-La’s natural environmental conditions – its freezing temperatures and relative humidity – offers the best way to freeze the seeds using liquid nitrogen. The seeds are preserved and kept safe using the same methods and procedures that are used in Slavbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.
According to the Defense Institute of High Altitude Research (DIHAR) Bulletin, if an onion is left in the right temperature and humidity at Chang-La, it will remain preserved for the next 413 years. Rice will remain preserved for 1100 years, barley – for 2000 years, wheat – for 1600 years, and pea – for 9000 years! Chang – La Seed Vault is undoubtedly one of the most secure seed vaults that we have in this world.
AVRDC – The World Vegetable Centre
With its headquarters in Shanhua, Taiwan, AVRDC – The World Vegetable Centre aims at bettering the livelihoods of poor rural as well as urban families by improving the cultivation of better quality vegetation varieties by using efficient production methods.
As a non-profit organization, AVRDC has a staff of more than 300 workers that are spread throughout Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Central America. But what is so distinct about AVRDC is that it is one of the largest seed banks and gene banks around the world – with a collection of almost 60,000 germplasms (samples of plant tissues) from over 156 countries across the world.
Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Project:
You will find one of the world’s largest seed banks in the Royal Botanical Gardens in England. This seed bank, as of now, preserves 10% of all of the plant species in the world. For the future, it aims at conserving a whopping 25% of the total.
By collecting and preserving seeds from the natural environment that are endangered by climate change, and developing new varieties of food crops that can survive in the changing environment, Millennium Seed Bank is planning to sustain both human life and the natural space – one step at a time.
National Centre for Genetic Resources:
This centre, based in University of Colorado’s campus, might not be one of the most secure seeds banks in the world with a doomsday vault, but it is definitely one of the largest gene banks out there. It houses a huge variety of germplasms of plants, animals, and even insects and microorganisms!
With over 8000 seed species, this centre not only preserves a large amount of natural diversity, but also works on genetic research alongside agricultural development to bring forth new dimensions of nature in the human-dominated world.
In 2012, the centre’s scientists created Gupton and Pearl, two new varieties of blueberry. Joseph Albano, a horticulturist from the University’s department, developed eco-friendly alternative to fertilizers as well.
Slavbard Global Seed Vault:
Cary Fowler, a conservationist, teamed up with Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, to ensure that all the essential seeds in the most secure seeds vaults around the world have duplicate copies or samples in another seed vault in the face of doomsday. Thus began the mission of one of the world’s largest seed banks in the world, under the tripartite agreement between the Crop Trust, the Norwegian Government, and the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (also known as NordGen).
The Noewegian Seed Vault’s prime mission is to act as a safety net in case there is a major loss of seeds in the gene banks worldwide. Temperatures exceeding -18 degree Celsius and limited oxygen supply ensures that the seeds stored in the seed vaults do not deteriorate or age.
However, in 2017, due to melting of the permafrost and extremely heavy rains, one of the tunnels at Slavbard was flooded, which poses a danger to the seeds. So, the Norwegian government took a safe step to upgrade and secure their doomsday seed vault. It spent $4.7 million to waterproof the tunnel, and it removed potential heat sources that could encourage more permafrost melting, and dug numerous drainage paths above the vault.
With a collection of over 8,90,000 seed samples from almost all the nations globally, with staples that include rice, maize, wheat, sorghum, eggplant, potato, barley, and lettuce, Slavbard Global Seed Vault is clearly one of the most secure seeds vaults in the world.
While Slavbard Global Seed Vault is leading the way to seed preservation, there are numerous most secure seed vaults sprawled across the globe which are committed to making the world a safer place for plants and seeds. They might not have a doomsday vault, but they are clearly ready if disaster strikes. They might not be in the list of the world’s largest seed banks, but their efforts are commendable and deserve recognition. The world needs them.