Why seed banks aren’t just for the apocalypse

Although this work only sequenced a portion of pepper genomes, it gave researchers insight into plant history that would not have been possible without gene technology.

As more research groups sequence the wealth of seed banks, we may uncover not only the hidden journeys of these familiar cultures and their wild relationships, but also the genes that could be our saving grace in times of uncertainty. climatic. The World Vegetable Center, like other seed banks, strives to put genetic and other information into a format that crop breeders can easily browse, says von Zonnenfeld. “For many breeders it is a challenge to select from 10,000 accessions. Where do you start?” he says.

Instead, seed banks have built up organized collections of only a few hundred accessions. These can be centered around a theme – plants that have been tested and proven to thrive in a hydroponic farm setup, plants that don’t turn white when salt water soaks their soil, or plants that tolerate drought well, for example. . Genetic information and detailed physical descriptions can be presented together. Then, breeders working for corporations, universities, or other institutions can, in a sense, buy the traits they hope to introduce into crops. It’s a way to get an idea of ​​what the banks have to offer.

They’re meant to be more than vaults, after all – they’re active repositories of what lives on the planet, on hand to produce what might live here in the future.

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