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 Collectors deposit seeds, which can later be ‘withdrawn’ to replenish crops lost in conflict or disaster, to breed new traits into crops — such as pest or heat resistance — and to research the evolution of plants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