from the now-they-can-grow! dept.
The Guardian reports that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a seed bank near Longyearbyen on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, has flooded due to "melting and heavy rain." The seeds remain safe, according to the article.
Researchers Identify Remains of 14,000-Year-Old Seeds: Fava Bean
Syrian Seed Bank Gets New Home Away From War
Bayer AG Offers to Buy Monsanto
30,000-Year-Old Giant Virus 'Comes Back to Life'
An Isolated Vault Could Store Our Data on DNA for 2 Million Years .
Giant Crater in Russia's Far North Sparks Mystery
30,000 Year Old Virus Revived
"A group at the Institut de Microbiologie de la Mediterranee, Aix Marseille Universite, revived a "giant" virus that had been embedded in permafrost for approximately 30,000 years. The virus was found in the tundra near East Siberia and is thus named Pithovirus sibericum. It is the latest entry in the class of large viruses called Megaviridae, which are so large that they are visible under an ordinary optical microscope:
P. sibericum is, on the scale of viruses, a giant - it has 500 genes, whereas the influenza virus has only eight.
This particular virus is harmless to humans and animals, but it demonstrates there could be unknown health repercussions as more permafrost thaws as the result of a warming planet."
A vast crater discovered in a remote region of Siberia known to locals as "the end of the world" is causing a sensation in Russia, with a group of scientists being sent to investigate.
The giant hole in the remote energy-rich Yamalo-Nenetsky region first came to light in a video uploaded to YouTube that has since been viewed more than seven million times. "The crater is enormous in size--you could fly down into it in several Mi-8s (helicopters) without being afraid of hitting anything," the person who posted the video, named only as Bulka, wrote.
A few hundred feet inside a permafrost-encrusted mountain below the Arctic circle sits the seed bank that could be humanity's last hope during a global food crisis. This month, scientists suggested that this unassuming vault is the ideal space for preserving the world's data on DNA.
This is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a bunker on the Arctic island of Svalbard, which for the past seven years has amassed almost a half million seed samples from all over the world. The idea is to use the naturally freezing, isolated environment of the far north to preserve the world's plant life and agricultural diversity—which, of course, is under threat by climate change and disaster. If a food crisis occurs, the vault could provide the seeds that repopulate parts of the world.
But it could potentially preserve much more than seeds. A study in the German chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie this month details the quest to find out how long data stored on DNA could be preserved, and also suggests the vault as the ideal storage location.
An ancient virus has "come back to life" after lying dormant for at least 30,000 years, scientists say.
It was found frozen in a deep layer of the Siberian permafrost, but after it thawed it became infectious once again. The French scientists say the contagion poses no danger to humans or animals, but other viruses could be unleashed as the ground becomes exposed.
Professor Jean-Michel Claverie, from the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) at the University of Aix-Marseille in France, said: "This is the first time we've seen a virus that's still infectious after this length of time."
The ancient pathogen was discovered buried 30m (100ft) down in the frozen ground. Called Pithovirus sibericum, it belongs to a class of giant viruses that were discovered 10 years ago. These are all so large that, unlike other viruses, they can be seen under a microscope. And this one, measuring 1.5 micrometres in length, is the biggest that has ever been found. The last time it infected anything was more than 30,000 years ago, but in the laboratory it has sprung to life once again.
Tests show that it attacks amoebas, which are single-celled organisms, but does not infect humans or other animals.
Co-author Dr Chantal Abergel, also from the CNRS, said: "It comes into the cell, multiplies and finally kills the cell. It is able to kill the amoeba - but it won't infect a human cell."
However, the researchers believe that other more deadly pathogens could be locked in Siberia's permafrost. "We are addressing this issue by sequencing the DNA that is present in those layers," said Dr Abergel. "This would be the best way to work out what is dangerous in there."
The researchers say this region is under threat. Since the 1970s, the permafrost has retreated and reduced in thickness, and climate change projections suggest it will decrease further. It has also become more accessible, and is being eyed for its natural resources.
Prof Claverie warns that exposing the deep layers could expose new viral threats.
He said: "It is a recipe for disaster. If you start having industrial explorations, people will start to move around the deep permafrost layers. Through mining and drilling, those old layers will be penetrated and this is where the danger is coming from."
He told BBC News that ancient strains of the smallpox virus, which was declared eradicated 30 years ago, could pose a risk. "If it is true that these viruses survive in the same way those amoeba viruses survive, then smallpox is not eradicated from the planet - only the surface," he said.
Monsanto announced that it has received an unsolicited purchase offer from Bayer AG. The offer is under consideration by Monsanto's board of directors. The companies are both major sellers of pesticides and of seeds for crops. Monsanto's market capitalisation on 18 May was $42.43 billion.
According to Dow Jones Business News via NASDAQ:
Folding Monsanto's world-leading seed franchise and its trademark Roundup herbicide business into Bayer would create a company with a combined $68 billion in annual sales, marketing products ranging from Aspirin pain-relief pills to crop genetics that enable plants to withstand bugs and weedkillers. The combination would sell about 28% of the world's pesticides and about 36% of U.S. corn seeds and 28% of soybean seeds, according to Morgan Stanley estimates.
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Cartoonist Fired for Criticizing Big Agriculture
A major seed bank in Aleppo, Syria, holds genes that might help researchers breed crops to survive climate change. But the conflict tearing the country apart has rendered the bank largely inaccessible for the past four years. Now an effort to duplicate its seed collection at more-accessible locations is ramping up.
On 29 September, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), which runs the bank in Aleppo, officially launched a sister bank in Terbol, Lebanon, which now hosts 30,000 duplicates. Together with a new bank in Rabat, Morocco, it will make thousands of seeds available to researchers.
Seed banks function as bank accounts for plant genes. Collectors deposit seeds, which can later be 'withdrawn' to replenish crops lost in conflict or disaster, to breed new traits into crops — such as pest or heat resistance — and to research the evolution of plants over the ages.
Like all food crops, the faba, or fava, bean -- a nutritious part of many the diet of many cultures diets -- had a wild ancestor. Wild faba is presumed to be extinct, but Weizmann Institute of Science researchers have now identified 14,000-year-old remains of seeds that offer important clues as to the time and place that this plant grew naturally. Understanding the ecology of the wild plants' environment and the evolution they underwent in the course of domestication is crucial to improving the biodiversity of the modern crop. The findings were reported in Scientific Reports.
[...] The new finding -- faba seeds from an archaeological site, el-Wad, on Mount Carmel in Northern Israel -- came from the earliest levels of an excavation that had been carried out by Profs. Mina Evron and Daniel Kaufman, and Dr. Reuven Yeshurun, all of Haifa University. The people living at that time, the Natufians, were hunter-gathers, and thus the plants there were growing wild. Boaretto and Caracuta performed radiocarbon dating and micro X-ray CT analysis on the preserved pieces of bean to pinpoint their age and identify them as the ancestors of the modern fava bean.
"Sometime between 11,000 and 14,000 years ago, people in this region domesticated faba -- around the same time that others farther north were domesticating wheat and barley," says Boaretto. Faba, a nutritious legume, is eaten around the world; in some places it is used for animal feed; and it fixes nitrogen in the soil. "Understanding how this plant was adapted to the habitat of the Carmel 14,000 years ago can help us understand how to create new modern varieties that will better be able to withstand pests and tolerate environmental stress," she says.
14,000-year-old seeds indicate the Levantine origin of the lost progenitor of faba bean (open, DOI: 10.1038/srep37399) (DX)
[Nearly 4 years ago, we covered flooding at the "doomsday" seed bank at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Fortunately, there was no harm to the seed samples stored there. For further background, consult the Wikipedia entry on the seed vault. --Ed]
Species or planets[sic] could be wiped off the face of the Earth any minute—so we need a “Moon Ark” to safely store frozen eggs, sperm, seeds and other DNA matter from all 6.7 million Earth species.
That’s according to students and staff at the University of Arizona, who at the IEEE Aerospace Conference last weekend divulged details of an ambitious “modern global insurance policy” for our planet.
Their daring plan is to build a complex in the Moon’s lava tubes staffed by robots and fuelled by solar panels on the lunar surface.
[...] The incredible plan to build a lunar base that includes an underground ark goes something like this: