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posted by janrinok on Thursday October 06 2016, @04:23PM   Printer-friendly
from the planting-the-future dept.

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 Collectors deposit seeds, which can later be 'withdrawn' to replenish crops lost in conflict or disaster, to breed new traits into crops — such as pest or heat resistance — and to research the evolution of plants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.

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  • (Score: 2) by frojack on Thursday October 06 2016, @04:52PM

    by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Thursday October 06 2016, @04:52PM (#411149) Journal

    So how long can a seed be kept with any expectation that it will germinate and grow?

    In my endeavors to plant trees, from harvested seeds, I've found that if you don't plant it right away, or the next spring at the latest, your chance of any success is dismal at best. Squirrels have a better track record than I do, mostly due to their forgetfulness.

    I've heard of finding ancient Egyptian grain jars, but I've never heard of the outcome of any planting trials.


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06 2016, @05:25PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06 2016, @05:25PM (#411162)
  • (Score: 3, Funny) by bob_super on Thursday October 06 2016, @05:27PM

    by bob_super (1357) on Thursday October 06 2016, @05:27PM (#411164)

    According to various documentaries, ancient seeds have a 100% chance to grow, if they spawn civilization-ending monstrous aberrations which can only be stopped by an awkward misunderstood scientist with family issues and her courageous handsome ex-boyfriend.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06 2016, @06:19PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 06 2016, @06:19PM (#411190)

      I sort of remember "Jack and the Bean Stalk", is that the documentary you meant...?
      Turns out that it's pretty old, "The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean", 1734. And related going back ~5000 years, per wikipedia.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by bootsy on Thursday October 06 2016, @05:48PM

    by bootsy (3440) on Thursday October 06 2016, @05:48PM (#411173)

    Check out []

    If you are in the UK you can visit this. It's about an hour or so drive from London in Wakehurst in a National Trust site leased out to Kew and the Royal Botanical Society. They have information about this subject and do talks several times a year.

    The answer to your question turns out to vary a lot. In the right conditions some seeds can last for 1000s of years whereas others are more sensitive. Some can survive salt water and float accross oceans. Temperature, light, humidity and pH all play a part. It certainly showed me how much I don't know about the subject!

  • (Score: 2) by Username on Thursday October 06 2016, @09:41PM

    by Username (4557) on Thursday October 06 2016, @09:41PM (#411242)

    Keep them in the freezer with the fruit. Though, most trees you buy from a nursery are cloned. Take a green spike off your tree, splice it with a root and stick it in mud. I have a 1/4 success rate with that.

    The one that pisses me off the most is grass seed. No point in even saving that stuff.

  • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 07 2016, @10:49AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 07 2016, @10:49AM (#411421)

    Plant biologist here. I've visited the Wageningen seed bank during my study and seed breeders also store seeds many years for quality control.

    In the seed bank they had different levels for storing various crop seeds. Seeds were harvested/dried at room temperature and depending on the species they were moved to 4 degrees C storage and -20 degrees C storage. Storing in these freezers requires the seeds to be packed air tight (freezers have very high humidity and viability can drop quickly). These ways you can store seeds for many years. Multiple batches are made and from time to time batches are checked for germination. If it drops below a certain level, new seeds are produced.

    The seed breeder where I worked at stored seeds at a fixed room temperature (18-20 degrees C) and checked seed batches from time to time as well. The reason for room temperature storage is that customers also most likely store it at room temperature (non-favourable conditions). Those seeds also have an expiration date (mostly 1 - 2 years).