The extinction of many plant species as a result of natural and man-made factors is well known and poses a severe threat to our world. Two out of every five plant species on the planet are endangered. In order to ensure that our future is as ecologically rich as today, we must think of saving plants just like we think of saving our valuables and resources. That is exactly where seed banks come into the picture. Here’s a quick review of what these banks accomplish and how.
WHAT IS A SEED BANK?
A seed bank is a facility that stores seeds in order to maintain genetically pure variety for future generations. Typically, they are flood, bomb, and radiation-proof vaults that store seeds from various plant species. The seeds are usually stored in climate controlled, low humidity and frigid temperatures. This aids in the long -term preservation of the seeds, guaranteeing that they will grow at a later day.
As per one estimate, there are over 1700 seed banks around the world, each with its own type, size, and concentration. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, often known as the “doomsday vault” or “Noah’s ark of seeds,” seeks to hold a duplicate of every seed stored in other banks throughout the world. Svalbard has the capacity to store up to 4.5 million kinds of crops and 2.5 billion seeds. It contains about 1.14 million seed samples from over 6,000 distinct plant species.
WHY SEEDS BANKS ARE ESSENTIAL
The first step of growing food starts from seed. To sustain the planet and all living beings, plants are paramount. Since plants are threatened by a variety of factors, including loss of habitat, climate change, pollution, pests, and diseases, seed banks serve as an institution in building agricultural resilience in the times of crisis. It is estimated that 40% of plant species are threatened with extinction on a global scale. Plants that are rare, heritage, indigenous, wild, or locally distinctive are all at risk of extinction. Their extinction could result in the genetic deterioration of our food system.
Without good genetic diversity, adapting to climate change or new pests can be challenging. Crop breeders require a diverse set of genetic resources to aid in the adaptation of our crops to changing situations. A seed bank is a type of insurance, that allows us to safeguard as many plant species as possible from extinction.
HOW ARE SEEDS SELECTED, COLLECTED AND STORED?
Experts and volunteers from all over the world are meticulously gathering seeds for the seed banks in the field. The best seeds are gathered in their dormant form and kept using strict standards. As an additional assurance, it is customary practice for each bank to send a portion of its precious seeds to another bank as an emergency backup. Some banks only hold seeds connected to agricultural crops, while others may only keep seeds from uncommon species with a very restricted sharing policy.
Depending on the species, seeds stored in these vaults are sometimes dormant for hundreds or even thousands of years. According to experts, seeds in seed bank can last at least 150 years in vaults, but hopefully much longer.
BENEFITS OF SEED BANKS
Plant genetic diversity is important for a variety of reasons, and seed banks help to preserve it. These conserved seeds contain a wealth of beneficial genes that breeders might employ to build improved varieties of our most important food crops. A few specific benefits of seed banks:
- Improve plant disease and pest resistance, both existing and emerging
- Allow for drought or flood resistance
- To feed a growing global population, increase yields and improve nutrition
The Kunming Institute of Botany’s Germplasm Bank of Wild Species of China is striving to preserve the seeds of as many wild plants as possible from across China’s huge land area. Many wild plants have genes that enable them to thrive in difficult conditions and make them resistant to diseases and drought. We may need these genetic resources in the future to produce new crops that can better adapt to shifting climate.
Around the world, seed banks house large collections of plant species that are essential for scientific research, education, species protection, and the preservation of Indigenous traditions. Seed banks contain a large number of seeds for a variety of objectives, such as restocking populations, research studies, and plant breeding programs. Seed banks that are well-funded and well-maintained are crucial to mitigating the worldwide impact of the climate on agriculture.