Svalbard Global Seed Vault
Photo courtesy of Svalbard Global Seed.
SVALBARD, NORWAY — Pasture and grain seeds from NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) collections in Wagga Wagga, Glen Innes, Grafton and Tamworth were sealed away in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway on Feb. 27, part of a major deposit made by countries in celebration of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault’s 10thanniversary.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure seed bank located on the Norwegian island of Splitsbergen near Longyearbyen, about 810 miles from the North Pole. The seed vault officially opened on Feb. 26, 2008, and countries have been depositing seeds in the vault for the past 10 years.

“Pasture seed of 956 species from the NSW DPI collection are sealed in the vault and an iconic grass species, phalaris, was included in the SGVS 10-year anniversary celebration ceremony this week,” said Mark Evans, pasture systems director for the NSW DPI. “Phalaris was chosen to represent NSW, as it was selected for improvement here 100 years ago and has become one of the most widely grown temperate perennial grass species in NSW.”

Additionally, grain seeds from 1,260 Australian bread wheat varieties from the NSW DPI Australia Winter Cereals Collection (AWCC) in Tamworth were deposited in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on Feb. 27.

Australia began its involvement with the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in 2014, when a delegation traveled to Svalbard and deposited 1,500 oat genotypes from the AWCC.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault has the capacity to store 4.5 million varieties of crops, with a maximum capacity of about 2.5 billion seeds. The vault currently holds more than 960,000 samples, ranging from African and Asian food staples such as maize, rice, wheat and sorghum, to European and South American varieties of eggplant, barley and potato.

Seeds stored in the vault require storage at a temperature of -18°C. The seeds are stored and sealed in custom made three-ply foil packages, which are then sealed inside boxes and stored on shelves inside the vault.

“The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is an iconic reminder of the remarkable conservation effort that is taking place every day, around the world and around the clock — an effort to conserve the seeds of our food crops,” said Marie Haga, executive director of the Crop Trust, which runs the Svalbard Global Seed Vault along with the Nordic Genetic Resource Center. “Safeguarding such a huge range of seeds means scientists will have the best chance of developing nutritious and climate-resilient crops that can ensure future generations don’t just survive, but thrive.”