In our daily search for pasta and flour, not to mention toilet paper, we are now learning the hard way the benefits of having ready access to more than just one supermarket. In the same way …. farmers …. are more resilient …. if they are able to choose from among different varieties of each crop provided by seed companies and other sources.
But where does such diversity come from?
All too often, we place the beginning of the food chain at the farm, when in fact it extends back further – all the way back to seed banks, also called genebanks. These treasure troves of seeds safeguard the diversity of our crops and make it available to researchers and plant breeders, who in turn use it to develop the knowledge and new varieties that farmers, and consumers like you and me, need.
Properly dried and stored at low temperature, seeds of most crops can be kept for decades. If their condition is properly monitored, they can be thawed out and multiplied before they lose viability. If data on their characteristics is easily available, researchers can request the samples they need for their work at the click of a mouse button.