The Svalbard Global Seed Vault
In 2022, no fewer than 30 genebanks from 28 countries deposited a total of nearly 85,000 seed samples in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. This included four first-time depositors: the Directorate of Seed Testing and Certification, Iraq; the State Forest Service, Lithuania; the Spanish Plant Genetic Resources Centre, Spain; and the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INIA), Uruguay. A total of more than 90 applications for grants to support backing-up their collections in the Seed Vault were submitted by genebanks from all around the world. By year’s end, 18 of these had been approved, and more were being processed.
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a long-term seed storage facility holding backups of the world’s collections of crop diversity. It is located deep inside a mountain on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago near the North Pole, and is opened a few times a year for deposits.
The Seed Vault was established and is owned by Norway and operates as a partnership between the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen) and the Crop Trust.
genebanks sent seeds to the Seed Vault
new genebanks added to the Seed Vault depositor family
samples were deposited
openings of the Seed Vault (February, June and October)
seed samples safeguarded
genebanks have deposited collections, from more than 60 countries
New ICARDA deposit brings holding almost back to 2015 level
In February 2022, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) deposited more than 6,000 seed samples in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. This deposit increased ICARDA’s holdings in the Seed Vault to almost 100,000 samples. That is close to what it was before the center withdrew seeds from the Seed Vault back in 2015, 2017 and 2019 to reestablish its genebank collection in Lebanon and Morocco following the civil war in Syria. ICARDA deposited an additional 3,446 seed samples in June.
The Svalbard family continues to grow
Four institutes backed up collections in 2022. In June, first-time deposits were received from the Spanish Plant Genetic Resources Center and the State Forest Service of Lithuania. In October, the Directorate of Seed Testing and Certification, Iraq, and the National Institute for Agricultural Research (INIA) of Uruguay followed with their own first-time deposits.
“We welcome these new members of our family and hope to see more seeds from them in the years to come,” said Sandra Borch, Norway’s minister of agriculture and food. “We look forward to seeing more nations entrusting their backup seeds to the Seed Vault.”
Something old, something new
The deposit in February included the seeds of crop species not previously represented in the Seed Vault. This included nearly 100 forage species from the Australian Pastures Genebank and 50 crop species from the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) in Germany. The IPK deposit also included samples of wheat collected in the Austrian Alpine region in the 1920s—one of the oldest collections at the genebank.
In June, the World Vegetable Center deposited seed samples from local varieties of rice bean, lablab and yard-long bean on behalf of two Indigenous communities.
In June 2022, the US-based non-governmental organization Seed Savers Exchange (SSE) deposited one box containing 99 seed samples. Although this was not a huge deposit, it continues SSE’s record as the only genebank in the world to have sent seeds to the Seed Vault every year since it opened in 2008—quite an achievement.
29 Jan 2024
27 Feb 2024 - 27 Feb 2024
ICARDA Genebank Manager Athanasios Tsivelikas in active collection cold room, Rabat, Morocco. Photo: Michael Major/Crop Trust
A pallet with seed boxes from World Vegetable Center on its way into the Seed Vault by Marcus Kjosnes from Pole Position Logistics and Kjell-Åke Lundblad from NordGen. (Photo: NordGen)
8 Jun 2023
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30 Mar 2023