Food security: the gene banks future-proofing Australian agriculture

From The Guardian, 27 April 2017:

n February 2018 the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the remote Norwegian Arctic will celebrate its 10th anniversary. Among the gifts it will receive are two collections of precious seeds and grains from the Australian Pastures Genebank and the Australian Grains Genebank, to be deposited into the vault as an insurance policy for an uncertain future.

Between them, the Australian Pastures Genebank and the Australian Grains Genebank are a record of Australia’s agricultural past, a resource for its present, and an insurance policy for its future.

“Our whole industry is predominantly based on improved species that have been introduced from overseas … and they are constantly at threat from pests and disease and climate change, drought, salinity,” says Steve Hughes, leader of the Australian Pastures Genebank.

Gene banks give researchers access to a library of seed and germplasm from which they can source the traits they need to ensure the next generations of pasture and grain crops have the best chance of overcoming diseases, pests and arduous conditions. The collection is classified by latitude, longitude, altitude, disease tolerance, soil conditions, climate, pest resistance and productivity. Items borrowed are not returned: the only payment the library demands is information.

“We don’t know what the future does have in place for us, which is why we have all this diversity which is hopefully going to be the key to future-proofing ourselves, or our agricultural industry,” Hughes says. Read more. 

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