Genes saved: Horsham seeds sent to Norway

THE Department of Environment and Primary Industries' Genebank in Horsham will send 10,000 seed samples to Norway for preservation.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway aims to preserve a wide variety of plant seeds from genebanks around the world, providing insurance against the loss of seeds in genebanks and refuge for seeds in case of large-scale regional or global crisis.

Project organiser and Wimmera farmer and scientist Tony Gregson said it was important the seeds were stored away for the future of agriculture.

"These seeds are unique, so it is important they are preserved for the future," he said.

The samples include oats, oilseeds, lupins, pasture and indigenous tropical crop seeds.

Australian Grains Genebank leader Sally Norton said the deposit consisted of globally unique germplasm.

"The indigenous crop wild relatives will also be the first contribution of Australian seed," she said.

"Until now, almost all varieties of crops and pastures in agriculture in Australia have originated from overseas countries."

She said the shipment was a big investment in the agriculture industry.

"This represents a $6-million investment," she said. "The deposit of seeds in Norway will make us a global partner in the conservation of genetic resources."

Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty said the State Government was helping fund the project.

"Seeds in the shipment could one day hold the key to boosting productivity or solving the challenges of drought, frost and disease," he said.

Dr Gregson said if an emergency occurred where seeds in Australia were destroyed, the boxes could be sent straight back to Australia without issues with quarantine.

"The Department of Agriculture has waived all costs associated with quarantine," he said.

The shipment was organised in conjunction with the DEPI and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

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