Australian Grains Genebank deliver to Svalbard Global Seed Vault

SEEDS from the Wimmera have been taken to Norway for storage in a global vault as part of the largest agricultural deposits in history.

The Australian Grains Genebank in Horsham sent 9300 seed lines to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault earlier this month.

Genebank leader Sally Norton said the varieties from Horsham, along with 25,000 from Adelaide, meant the delivery was the largest seed deposit made by a single country.

“The seed lines were from a range of crops, including ones we commonly grow in the region like cereals, legumes and oil seeds, but we also had seeds from tropical crops such as sunflower and sorghum.

“We had almost 2000 current varieties and we had a lot of historic varieties dating back to the 1890s, such as federation-style wheat.”

Dr Norton said this was the third deposit the genebank had made to the vault.

“We took 7500 seed lines last time and 400 the time before, so this was our biggest deposit,” she said.

“The delivery represents the history of Australian grains and it was quite a unique collection.”

The deposit was made up of 30 crates containing about 34,000 different types of grain and pasture seeds.

Dr Norton said it was an amazing opportunity to travel to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

“It’s located in the world’s northern-most inhabited town, so it’s pretty much as far away as you can get from Melbourne,” she said.

“It’s a really icy and snowy landscape, which is very foreign to people in the Wimmera.

“It was an incredible experience and to go in the vault, which offers global seed protection for the entire world – you get goosebumps.”

Dr Norton said it was vital to have backup seeds.

“We have a domestic backup in Australia, but it’s important to have an off-shore backup as well,” she said.

“The vault was built for this purpose and there are no politics involved – countries can store their seeds for the greater good.

“It’s a really important reserve for us.

“If we have a natural disaster we can re-establish our collection.

“It might not even be a natural disaster that causes seed loss, it could be something as simple as mice.”

Dr Norton said the Australian Grains Genebank opened in Horsham in 2014 and was supported by the state government and the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

She said the genebank would make a deposit to the global vault every second year.