The Svalbard Global Seed Vault and the ongoing 100 years seed storage experiment

G. Brodal, Å. Asdal
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was opened in 2008. The aim was to secure genetic diversity of crop plants important to future food production. The Seed Vault has the capacity to store 4.5 million seed samples, each containing on average 500 seeds sealed in airtight aluminum bags. By the end of 2016, the Vault had approximately 880,000 accessions representing more than 5000 plant species. The samples, originating from 71 gene banks and research institutes from all across the world, include major food crops such as wheat, rice, barley, sorghum, maize, legumes and forage crops, and vegetables. The seed samples are duplicates (backups) of seed stored in national, regional and international gene banks. Deposits can only be made by following a depositor agreement and the seed samples in the Vault remain the property of the depositing gene bank. The Vault is situated in permafrost at -3 to -4°C, but artificial cooling maintains a temperature of -18°C inside the Vault. Management of the Vault is secured through an agreement between the Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Crop Trust and the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre (NordGen). Secure storage of gene bank seeds in Svalbard was initiated during the 1980s, when the Nordic Gene Bank placed a collection of seed duplicates in an abandoned coal mine outside Longyearbyen in Svalbard. In addition to the secure storage of the base collection, a study of the longevity (germination and seed health) in long-term storage (100 years) in permafrost was started in 1986. A total of 42 seed samples of 16 common agricultural and horticultural Nordic species were included in the study. A set of sub-samples has been taken out for analyses every two and a half years during the first 20 years, and are taken out every five years for the next 80 years.
Brodal, G. and Asdal, Å. (2018). The Svalbard Global Seed Vault and the ongoing 100 years seed storage experiment. Acta Hortic. 1204, 1-8
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2018.1204.1
gene bank, seed storage in permafrost, NordGen, plant genetic resources, long range seed storage, seed longevity

Acta Horticulturae