Seed Banks and Saving Seeds
Seed banks collect and save seeds to preserve genetic diversity. Seed swaps are another way to maintain the genetic diversity of plants. With a seed swap, gardeners from diverse locations can exchange seeds that they have saved. In this way the diverse genetics of a certain variety can be saved and maintained in different locations. Seed Savers Exchange is the largest seed swap in the US.
Why is saving the genetics of seeds important? Seed companies that supply commercial crop growers are getting larger by buying out smaller seed companies. One of the problems with this is that the large scale crops that are grown are getting less genetically diverse. Then, if a disease or pest can get the best of a crop that is too genetically similar, it can devastate the whole crop, causing a famine. That is what happened to the potato in Ireland in the 1800's.
Seed banks or seed vaults play an important role in preserving the natural genetics in different plants and crops; because once this genetics is gone it is lost. Several countries maintain seed banks to insure the preservation of seeds in case crops are destroyed by war, famine or disease. Norway maintains a "doomsday vault," or seed bank of last resort, that was recently accessed because a seed bank in Syria could not be accessed because of the war.
Why should you save seeds? The plants you grow have survived the conditions in your garden, so the seeds you save will, over time, be better for growing where you are. Now, if you want them to be like their parent (to grow true), you have to start with heirloom seeds. Seeds saved from a hybrid plant will not grow true.
After several years of saving your own seeds from parents that are genetically diverse, you will have a landrace that is adapted to your garden. This landrace you developed will be better able to survive the diseases and growing conditions in your garden. If more people save seeds, then if there is something that wipes out a crop in one area, maybe the genetics of plants from another area will survive.
Companies and Organizations working to save the genetic diversity of seeds in seed banks and/or by other means.
Staff at the Australian PlantBank collect and store seeds from common as well as rare and threatened plant species. Many different collection and processing methods are used. Each and every seed must be prepared correctly before it can be stored in the seed vault.
The AVRDC Genebank maintains a large collection of public domain germplasm for the current and future use of all humankind. We distribute seed samples of our germplasm accessions and advanced breeding lines worldwide.
Camino Verde's work is focused in the Tambopata river basin in Madre de Dios, Peru. The nearby Tambopata Reserve is an important protected area that has been recognized as a biodiversity Hot Spot and is considered by some to be the most biodiverse place on Earth.
Ciat's mission is to, reduce hunger and poverty, and improve human nutrition in the tropics through research aimed at increasing the eco-efficiency of agriculture.
The Greenbelt Native Plant Center (GNPC), a facility of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, is a 13–acre greenhouse, nursery, and seed bank complex located on Staten Island, NY. Our mission is to provide native plants and seeds from local plant populations in support of the restoration and management of many of the City's most valuable natural areas.
Together with our colleagues in Parks and our partners throughout the region— local conservation, research, education, botanic, and cultural institutions— we work towards the long–term sustainability of our natural resources through programming and research to improve the conservation value of New York City's parkland.
Survival of biodiversity depends on active growing and seed saving. As Joseph Simcox often remarks, 'In a way, the best seed bank is the very dirt in your back yard'! This is to point out that while formal seed banks do have an important role in safeguarding biodiversity, the most reliable way of ensuring seed viability is to plant it year after year. To that effect, The Rare Vegetable Seed Consortium works to actively promote season-to-season cultivation, seed saving and sharing of its holdings of rare, non-GMO, heirloom genetic material.
Koanga institute and its founders have focused on saving our heritage food plants, including vegetable seeds and fruit trees. As a result, the Institute and its founders have brought together, New Zealand’s largest collection of NZ heritage vegetable seeds (800+), and a northern bio-regional heritage fruit tree and national berries collection (400+) over a 30 year period.
It has also become one of the leading practitioners, researcher and teacher of bio-intensive gardening and nutrient dense food production for home gardeners, and has developed a wide range of educational courses in self-reliance and ecological design which attracts students from around the world.
In an effort to improve, increase, and promote biodiversity, the Hawai‘i Public Seed Initiative works with communities, farmers, and gardeners statewide to select, grow, harvest, store, and improve seed varieties that thrive in Hawai‘i.
With more than 90% of the fruit and vegetable varieties offered by seed companies in the United States in 1900 no longer available today, open-pollinated seed and genetic diversity are being lost at a rapid rate. The Initiative supports education, research and community projects related to promoting and increasing seed diversity and improving food security throughout the islands.
The Louisiana Native Plant Initiative is a cooperative effort to help conserve a vanishing natural resource in Louisiana--native plants. Public and private land managers around the state have a growing interest to use locally adapted native plant materials for restoration, conservation, and re-vegetation projects. Working groups within the initiative work to identify resource areas, develop species lists for seed collections, establish seed increase sites, develop relationships to promote commercial production of native plants, and develop partnerships to establish future funding needs.
Kew is a global resource for plant and fungal knowledge. We have one of the largest and most diverse collections of plant and fungal specimens (living and preserved) in the world.
Our unique combination of extensive collections, databases, scientific expertise and global partnerships gives us a leading role in facilitating access to fundamental plant and fungal information. The core purpose of our science stems from a simple but often overlooked truth: all our lives depend on plants.
Native Seeds seed bank houses approximately 1,900 different accessions of traditional crops utilized as food, fiber and dye by the Apache, Chemehuevi, Cocopah, Gila River Pima, Guarijio, Havasupai, Hopi, Maricopa, Mayo, Mojave, Mountain Pima, Navajo, Paiute, Puebloan, Tarahumara, Tohono O'odham, Yaqui, and other cultures.
In today’s context of biological and ecological destruction, seed savers are the true givers of seed. This gift or “dana” of Navadhanyas (nine seeds) is the ultimate gift – it is a gift of life, of heritage and continuity. Conserving seed is conserving biodiversity, conserving knowledge of the seed and its utilization, conserving culture, conserving sustainability.
Organic Seed Alliance is a 501 (c)(3) that advances the ethical development and stewardship of the genetic resources of agricultural seed. We believe seed is part of our common cultural heritage – a living, natural resource that demands careful management to meet food needs now and into the future. We accomplish our mission through research, education, and advocacy.
The seed industry has quickly consolidated. Intellectual property practices (e.g., patents on seed) stand out as the leading cause, where much of our commercial seed is now owned and managed in the hands of a few transnational firms. This control has stifled innovation in plant breeding, and creates barriers to improving the availability, quality, and integrity of organic seed.
OSA works to address consolidation through regional seed networks that result in transformative change at the national level. Our collaborative research emphasizes diversity, ecology, and shared benefits. Our education builds the base of knowledge necessary for stewarding seed and enhancing diversity through on-farm innovation. And our advocacy promotes the benefits of organic seed while simultaneously confronting threats.
A large government or institute run seed bank is set up to store thousands upon thousands of seed and gene samples almost indefinitely. Samples are vacuum-sealed and tucked away in deep freezes, meant to come out only if and when they are needed. These seed banks are run like long-term investments: once the deposit is made, the investment isn’t touched.
But The Populuxe Seed Bank isn’t quite set up that way. The purpose of this seed bank is to distribute our varieties to as many growers as possible throughout the world. The purpose of the seed bank is to preserve, but to preserve by sharing as widely as possible. A variety might be stored away for fifty years and be viable, but if there is only the one source for that seed, has it really been preserved?
SeedSave is your source for seed saving information. SeedSave.org is the online home for Bill McDorman and Belle Starr, husband and wife, working to promote regional seed solutions. Together they conceived and founded the original Seed School in 2010 which has now graduated hundreds of new seed citizens.
Seed Savers maintains a collection of more than 20,000 heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable, herb, and plant varieties, including over 1,000 varieties of heritage apple trees. They keep the bulk of their collection in an underground freezer vault at Heritage Farm.
Slides of Landrace and Heirloom Seeds
Locally adapted high quality garden seeds are a rare commodity and cost nothing but patience. Then you avoid spraying pesticides that are necessary for over-bred, highly-strung varieties of fruits and vegetables. Moreover, your efforts may become the start of a seed swap adventure with other gardeners (or in your local seed network), whether with neighbours, family and friends, in a community gardens or in a school.
Having met farmers and gardeners in more than forty countries Jude and Michel Fanton, the directors of The Seed Savers’ Network, appreciate that it is gardeners and small land-holders who caretake the food diversity of the world. They are leaving us the living legacy of home-saved garden seeds that ultimately belong to all of us, and are the responsibility of all of us.
Seed saving peasants, rural and urban gardeners worldwide keep their seed within a friendly active network, and regrow them in their fields and gardens as a living seed bank evolving within culture, and within climate. Institutionalised frozen gene-banks are inaccessible to gardeners and farmers. Increasingly even small seed companies are relying on large corporations for their seed supply.
Slow Food works around the world to protect food biodiversity, build links between producers and consumers, and raise awareness of some of the most pressing topics affecting our food system.
Worldwide, more than 1,700 genebanks hold collections of food crops for safekeeping, yet many of these are vulnerable, exposed not only to natural catastrophes and war, but also to avoidable disasters, such as lack of funding or poor management. Something as mundane as a poorly functioning freezer can ruin an entire collection. And the loss of a crop variety is as irreversible as the extinction of a dinosaur, animal or any form of life.
We are one of the largest privately owned and privately funded seed banks in North America. Certainly the largest one in Canada! We maintain over 4,000 varieties of open-pollinated, non-GMO, vegetables.
We are very unique in our mission, as we focus on collecting and sharing not only the seeds along with fruits and plants characteristics, but also historical information about our varieties. Historical information is a very important part of seed preservation, and we are so happy to see many small seed vendors following the trend!
We welcome gardeners from all over the world to make contributions to the mission by sharing their growout notes and photographs at Tatiana's TOMATObase website.
Composed of 651 biosphere reserves in 120 countries, including 15 transboundary sites, the WNBR of the MAB Programme promotes North-South and South-South collaboration and represents a unique tool for international co-operation through sharing knowledge, exchanging experiences, building capacity and promoting best practices.