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 Collectors deposit seeds, which can later be 'withdrawn' to replenish crops lost in conflict or disaster, to breed new traits into crops — such as pest or heat resistance — and to research the evolution of plants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

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