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Seriously Saving Seeds

francesco s.
user 3227838
Portland, ME
Post #: 14
Doomsday Vault for World's Seeds Is Opened Under Arctic Mountain
By Lewis Smith
The Times Online

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Ten tonnes of seeds were deposited hundreds of feet inside a frozen mountain yesterday as part of a scheme to preserve all the world's crops.

Seeds from varieties of potatoes, barley, lettuce, aubergines, black-eyed pea, sorghum and wheat were among the first to be placed in the doomsday vault inside the Arctic circle.

A specially prepared box of rice originating from 104 countries was the first to be deposited in the vault, where it will be kept at minus 18C (minus 0.4F). Thousands more species will be added as organisers attempt to get specimens of every agricultural plant in the world.

Three chambers have been built 125 metres (400 feet) inside a mountain close to the town of Longyear-byen in Svalbard, a Norwegian island about 500 miles (800 kilometres) from the North Pole.

An opening ceremony was conducted at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, as 100 million seeds from more than 100 countries were placed inside. The first day's deposits comprised 268,000 samples and filled 676 boxes.

The project is intended to provide a failsafe against disaster so that if a seed collection is destroyed in its natural habitat there is an alternative source of supply. Cary Fowler, executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which is behind the initiative, said that by preserving as many varieties as possible the options open to farmers, scientists and governments were maximised. "The opening of the seed vault marks a historic turning point in safeguarding the world's crop diversity," he said.

Many varieties of seed kept in the vault are no longer used commercially but it is possible that they will prove invaluable as world conditions change,.

The facility has been designed to keep seeds safely frozen for centuries and, at 130 metres up, the mountain is high enough to be safe even from catastrophic rises in sea levels. Similarly, amid the worst levels of global warming, in which the permafrost of the Arctic island would start melting, the seeds will be safe for up to 200 years.

Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian Prime Minister, said: "With climate change and other forces threatening the diversity of life that sustains our planet, Norway is proud to be playing a central role in creating a facility capable of protecting what are not just seeds, but the fundamental building blocks of human civilisation."

During the opening ceremony he unlocked the vault and, helped by Professor Wangari Maathai, the Nobel prize-winning environmentalist, placed the first seeds inside. Politicians and experts from around the world attended the ceremony at the vault, which is big enough to store 4.5 million samples, adding up to 2 billion seeds.

Some seeds will be viable for a millennium or more, including barley, which can last 2,000 years, wheat 1,700 years, and sorghum almost 20,000 years. Dr Maathai said: "The significant public interest in the seed vault project indicates that collectively we are changing the way we think about environmental conservation."
David S.
stereoview
Washington, ME
Post #: 89
This is a project that may be a good idea or not. If they don't save spores and mycelium as well it may not work. 90% of all plants form relationships with fungi and in many cases cannot do without them once again highlighting how mycologists and agronomists barely know each other.
A former member
Post #: 57
David,
Interesting...so are you saying that the spores and mycelium are seed specific so that when a certain seed is planted out in the future they may not grow without the presence of the appropriate fungi or mycelia? Or are you suggesting that if we (in general) lose all the fungi and mycelia of the world, just planting seeds won't work? I remember learning from my student agronomy days that the US has been placing seeds in cold storage for years to preserve the genetic material for breeding purposes. This new site in Norway has the additional disaster component ( flooding, warming, dying out of crops etc.) so I'm curious about the prognosis for fungi and mycelia under those conditions.

Winnie
Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 257
Based on what I've been reading in Mycelium Running, I would have to say that David is right. If mycelium/fungi etc. are the interface between life and death, then you can't have living soil without them. Without living soil, plants can't grow and dead/dying organic matter can't break down to keep the cycle going. I guess you could grow in an artificial medium chock full of whatever...but...that's no kind of future to bet the farm upon, in my view. In other words, saving the genetic material is not a bad idea, but if you have no way to use it, then what? Or is the whole project just a placebo:)
A former member
Post #: 93
Here is a related item that I read this morning:

http://news.yahoo.com...­
David S.
stereoview
Washington, ME
Post #: 90
If it is true that more than 90% of plants form beneficial relationships with fungi then the same circumstances that wiped out the plants may likely wipe out the fungi as well. In a symbiosis if one partner were extirpated the other would not likely survive either.

I don't know the answer but it certainly seems logical that you would want and likely need to save the symbiotic partners.

This does get into a weird area because we still know so little about these relationships underground. What do you save and how do you do it? Bacteria should be an element of this issue as well.

We have no effective means of habitat preservation of that which is underground that is not decided by what is above ground.

When the sidewalk cleaning machines come by and blow all the winter salt and snow on your yard under you sugar maples do the trees suffer because of salt uptake or the killing of the mycorrhizal partner underground? It may be both.

There are theories that the disappearance and bad health of wild sugar maples is because of stresses to the mycorrhizae. Roadside salt and sand are a problem. Invasive earthworms seem to be part of the problem too actually eating the mycorrhizae.

New paradigms are necessary.
Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 258
Great post, David.

It reminds me that in a world where we fully understand so little of the complexity and richness of what keeps systems functional and healthy, it becomes imperative to exercise the "precautionary principle" which seems so anathema to our current culture.

By precautionary principle I mean that suspect methods or materials should be off-limits until they are proven safe to a reasonable degree. Right now it feels like the exact opposite is true: until something is proven harmful, it is freely unleashed into the natural world and/or into "consumers" as long as there is a profit to be gained.

So, unless someone "proves" (whatever we societally decide THAT term means!) that our road safety [sic] practices are killing sugar maples, we keep going...instead of stopping, finding other methods, and really figuring it out.

Unless somone "proves" that milk produced by cows given rGBH is bad for humans [or substitute irradiated foods, meat from cloned animals, biphenols in water bottles], we're not even allowed to label the food as such. Don't even get me started on truth in labelling...

Anyway, I'd much rather we had an ethos of "we're not sure what damage we're doing so we better stop for now..." rather than one that says "well, no one's complaining so let's just keep going until someone or something gets hurt."
francesco s.
user 3227838
Portland, ME
Post #: 15
Lisa, that last paragraph you wrote said it all! Great discussion all; thank you.
Lisa F.
lisa.f.organizer
Group Organizer
Portland, ME
Post #: 258
In today's paper, directly related to the conversation:

http://pressherald.ma...­

And, of course, you get.... "a geological-sciences professor at the University of Maine, said he doesn't know of any studies that might suggest that the routine use of road salt harms fish."
A former member
Post #: 94
A sugar beet solution has been found to be a good substitute for salt, but I note that in this article from Toronto the salt and transportation industries have been busy...if that is true in Canada, how much more true one would expect it to be in the US.

http://64.233.167.104...­
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