SOUTH Australian researchers are preparing thousands of seed lots for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.
The Global Seed Vault holds over 800,000 lots of crop and pasture species as an insurance policy for humans’ survival in the event of a major disaster.
The seed regeneration work being undertaken by South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) scientists is a key part of the Australian Pastures Genebank (APG) – Australia’s first forage centre.
Seed lots will be delivered to Svalbard in February 2018 to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of the opening of the vault.
Australian Pastures Genebank curator, Steve Hughes, said sSeed collected from pasture species from around the world over the last 50 years were being regenerated at Urrbrae in Adelaide so that only fresh, high quality seed make the journey to Norway.
The seeds will be preserved at Svalbard in permafrost deep inside a mountain on the remote island of Spitsbergen.
“We are proud to be supporting Australia’s international obligations to conserve and distribute seed for the benefit of global food security,” he said.
Around 250 seed lots are grown each year by SARDI’s APG regeneration program – one of four APG regeneration sites nationally – with the aim of producing pure seed that can be used to preserve each seed line indefinitely.
While they are being grown, scientists collect information on a range of characters such as their flowering time, growth habit, and yield potential of each species.
The plants are then managed according to the specific habits, like their potential to cross pollinate with their neighbours.
Isolating the pollen is a crucial step to preserve the genetic integrity of each line. For cross-pollinating plants such as lucerne, a small tent is erected above each seed lot to protect the plants from foreign pollen, and a honey bee hive is placed inside each tent to perform the crossing.
The APG is based at the Waite Campus, Adelaide, and is the custodian of over 80,000 varieties of pastures and forage species, providing valuable seed for future breeding programs.
The APG is led by SARDI, a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), with support from the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, State Government primary industry agencies, and Australian Research and Development Corporations – Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation, Grains Research and Development Corporation, Dairy Australia, and Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation.