Seed banks are essential for the survival of plant species. Like animals, some plant species are threatened with extinction. This also includes plants that are a food source for humans. Plant extinction is a threat to food security and the environment.
HOW SEED BANKS WORK
Seed banks are purposely designed to prolong the lifespan of seeds:(Research from Springer Link)
They provide the perfect conditions to prevent seeds from germinating or rotting while in storage.
Most seed banks operate at -4°F. The cold conditions increase the longevity of the seeds.
Seed banks have low humidity levels. This makes sure the seeds remain useable for the longest time possible.
Preservationist Seed Bank
Preservationist vaults safeguard seeds against unforeseen disasters. This can be man-made (wars) or natural calamities (floods, tsunamis, etc.).
The seeds stored in these banks are rarely given to farmers.
Assitentialist Seed Vaults
These seed banks store a wide range of seeds for future utilization. They can provide farmers with seeds after the occurrence of a catastrophic event.
They allow farmers to regrow lost crops, thus preventing food shortages.
Productivist Seed Bank
Most of the seeds stored in productivist vaults are used for scientific research. Scientists that work in these seed banks are focused on developing seeds that can increase yield.
They can cross germplasm materials from different plants to create crops that can provide dependable yield production.
WHY ARE SEED BANKS IMPORTANT?
Seed banks are essential for the survival of plant species. Like animals, some plant species are threatened with extinction. This also includes plants that are a food source for humans. Plant extinction is a threat to food security and the environment. (Research from The Borgen Project)
Preservation of Genetic Diversity in Crops
Preservation of plant diversity is one of the main reasons why we have seed banks. Species of the same crop are adapted to different climatic conditions around the world. Some do well in the tropics, while others thrive in temperate regions.
Thanks to their adaptive nature, most seeds can grow in different environmental conditions.
Seed banks safeguard key plant species against extinction. That way, we won’t lose certain crops in the future.
These storage facilities can help in the conservation of germplasm resources
Protection from Natural and Man-made Disasters
Both man-made and natural disasters can cause crop destruction. Wars can interrupt farming activities and may also lead to food shortages.
With seed banks in place, farmers can get seeds for their farms after a war.
Floods and other natural disasters can damage large tracts of farmland. This can cause unprecedented consequences on some crops. Farmers can repopulate the affected plants by obtaining seeds from seed banks.
Moreover, most seed banks are disaster-proof. They can withstand bombs, floods, and other disasters.
Provides Seeds to Further Crop Research
Seed banking provides scientists with the materials they need to research different types of plants.
Through research, scientists can develop crops that are more resilient to pests and diseases. This can greatly increase food production and will also prevent possible plant extinction.
Seed banks often have a wide range of seeds, thereby allowing scientists to make comparisons between plant species.
Research can also help scientists identify plants that have medicinal properties.
Pest and Disease Resistance
Plants can be affected by both bacterial and viral diseases. Pests can also cause major damage to crops.
Most crop diseases can spread from one plant to another within a limited amount of time. As a result, entire plant species can be wiped out when there is an outbreak.
Seed banks can prove helpful when pests and plant diseases hurt or destroy crops completely. They act as a backup plan for scientists and farmers.
Framers can obtain seeds from seed banks after a disease outbreak. This makes sure the seeds planted are not contaminated.
Seed Banks Protect Plants from Climate Change
Climate change is causing more intense and longer droughts on the planet. This threatens the existence of food crops and other plant species.
The sudden change in weather conditions around the globe may cause the extinction of certain crops.
Climatic changes may also introduce new diseases and pests into the environment. Consequently, crops won’t thrive in the affected areas.
With the help of seed banks, plants that are on the brink of extinction can be restored.
EXAMPLES OF SEED BANKS
There are over a thousand seed banks around the world. Seed banks are often located in areas with minimal or no human activity:
Svalbard Global Seed Vault
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault holds the world’s largest collection of plant diversity. It is located in Antarctica and is built 150m into the side of a mountain.
Over 1 million varieties of food crops from different parts of the globe are stored in this seed gene bank.
Being a long-term storage place, the vault can withstand almost all types of disasters. The Global Seed Vault is also called the doomsday vault.
The main vault rests underneath a thick layer of permafrost. This offers the right conditions to keep the seeds useable for several years.
Millennium Seed Bank
Located in rural Sussex, the Millennium Seed Bank also has a rich collection of seeds. The seed bank has over 2 billion samples of seeds from around the world.
The vaults are built underground to create the perfect storage conditions for the seeds.
The humidity level inside the storage chambers is very low, so the seeds cannot get damaged.
SEED BANKS PRESERVE CROP DIVERSITY
Seed banks are essential for the preservation of crop diversity. A large percentage of the world’s food crops are likely to go extinct in the coming years. The gradual change in climatic conditions harms most crops.
In addition to this, crops are becoming less resilient to pests and diseases. As such, key plant species may be lost in case of a serious outbreak. Seed banks can store seeds for several years without them losing their viability.
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