100-year experiment showing how long seeds can live

Global Seed Vault in SvalbardGlobal Seed Vault in Svalbard.Photo: Statsbygg
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Only in a hundred years, the scientists at the Svalbard seed vault will answer: How old can seeds be without losing their germination?

The so-called ” 100-year experiment ” has now begun in the global seed vault in Svalbard.

The experiment comprises seeds of 13 plant species that are important for the world’s food supply and are planned to continue for a hundred years.

“This is a unique project and will enable valuable information for future generations on how long seeds can be kept alive, and a more accurate understanding of how often seeds in gene banks and the seed vault need to be renewed,” says the seed vault coordinator Åsmund Asdal at NordGen in a press release.

Living for centuries

Good quality seeds can preserve germination for many decades, several also for centuries. However, there are great differences between species, and different conditions during seed cultivation and seed packaging can provide seeds of different quality.

On Thursday, the first seed samples in the experiment will be added to the seed vault in Svalbard.

A total of six gene banks are participating in the new experiment, which is funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food and under the leadership of the Nordic gene bank, NordGen. The samples include barley, peas, wheat, lettuce, rice, maize, chickpeas, soya, peanuts, pearl millet, pea beans, cabbage and timothy.

Tested every decade

“More knowledge about how long seeds can survive will be very useful for gene banks, but it is also important for the work in the Svalbard global seed vault. The seed vault acts as a great safety deposit box for seeds, and it’s important to know how often the seeds in the vault need to be replaced,” says Åsmund Asdal.

The first seeds added to next week’s experiment will be removed and tested in 2030.

Findings and reports from the experiment will be published throughout the project period, helping to improve routines and guidelines for both gene banks in general and for long-term seed storage in the seed vault.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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