Spanish delegation lays 1000 seed varieties in Arctic ‘Noah’s Ark’ vegetable

CSIC scientists traveled to the remote island of Svalbard where they delivered a selection of one thousand plant varieties that will be deposited in Norway’s World Seed Bank, the cutting-edge science infrastructure that houses the largest security collection of global agricultural biodiversity, and which protects the global food base.

For the first time, seed varieties from Spain have been incorporated into the world’s largest agricultural biodiversity security collection located in the Arctic. Our country has a great wealth in biodiversity because it is a bridge between Europe, Latin America and Africa.

The award ceremony took place in the presence of the Vice-President for International Relations of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), Ángeles Gómez Borrego, and the researcher Luis Guasch, from the Plant Genetic Resources Center of the Institute national agricultural and food research and technology. (INIA-CSIC), which was in charge of registering plant varieties.

“The enormous natural biodiversity that Spain has, thanks to its natural conditions, should not only be preserved in our country, but also in a global project such as the Svalbard World Seed Bank. The heritage of humanity must be approached as a challenge for all and this is our first contribution”, commented Guasch.

Noah's Ark, seeds, vegetables, biodiversity, survival, ArcticBoxes of seeds entering the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on June 9, 2022. / NordGen

A pioneering infrastructure

The Svalbard Seed Bank, a kind of plant Noah’s Ark, is a global scientific infrastructure located on an island in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. It stores over a million seed samples of different crops from almost every country in the world; the largest collection of agricultural biodiversity.

This material, also known as plant genetic resources, forms the basis of almost all of our food.“says Guasch.

This is about 1,080 Spanish varieties“, details the scientist. “Of these: 300 are winter cereals, of which 114 correspond to wheat; 510 are legumes, of which 189 are beans; 200 are horticultural, including 81 tomatoes and 108 varieties of corn“, Add. The term of the deposit is generally 10 years, renewable.

The sample deposit plan for the CRF core collection began more than 6 years ago, following detailed work protocols. In fact, for the samples to be recent and to remain viable for as long as possible, perhaps hundreds of years, they must be multiplied in the field in good conditions, without crosses or mixtures with other varieties, keeping identity of varieties.

Noah's Ark, seeds, vegetables, biodiversity, survival, ArcticImage from the event at the World Seed Bank in Svalbard. / CSIC communication

A project with international ambitions

The project is sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the international organization Global Crop Diversity Trust (CROP Trust), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Norwegian government, which has of the facility a commitment to the conservation of plant genetic resources in order to be able to meet, if necessary, the challenges posed by climate change and other possible global threats.

The Spanish system for the conservation of plant genetic resources established by Law 30/2006, of July 26, on Seeds and Nursery Plants, is based on a system of duplicates or backup copies of active or exchange collections. The INIA-CSIC Plant Genetic Resources Center is in charge of the long-term conservation of accessions or varieties in seed form.

Su objectivo es maintain las semillas vivas, por lo que establecen ensayos periódicos que monitorizan su viabilidad, tanto en la colección de seguridad del CRF como en el resto de bancos españoles y, llegado el caso, se procede su su multiplication o regeneración en el Countrycontinues Guasch.

Sending part of the seed collection to Svalbard Dome does not replace this security system, but rather an additional protection mechanism. “Only once did we have to go to the bank of Svalbard to request seeds, on the occasion of the regeneration of the samples of the bank that existed in Syria, the Icarda, destroyed by the war», recalls the researcher.

More than 89 depositories have already sent their samples to Svalbard. Among them are the international conservation centers linked to the FAO, the large countries and the vast majority of European states.

At the time of the creation of the Svalbard Dome, Spain made an extraordinary financial contribution to the FAO through the Secretary of State for International Cooperation and Ibero-America, and this is the first time that she sends seeds.

This agreement led by INIA-CSIC shows Spain’s commitment to biodiversity conservation and highlights the actions carried out in the CRF to improve the resilience of agricultural systems and their ability to adapt to climate change.

Character font: CSIC

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