With climate change on the increase, many crops are in danger of going extinct, and this will undoubtedly cause a global food crisis. The worldwide population explosion has also led to increased consumption of food that exceeds production. Seed banking and conservation is a technique that can avert such unforeseen emergencies. Seeds are stored in secured seed banks and can be retrieved when crops disappear.
How do Seed Banks Work?
Seed banks provide conditions necessary for the longevity of seeds. Seeds are stored under low temperatures that keep seeds dormant till they are needed for replanting.
It’s easy for plants to be stored in their seed form since they are small and therefore, they occupy minimum space. This makes it possible to store a huge variety of seeds. The Slavbard Global Seed Vault is the biggest seed bank and it stores seeds for almost every country in the world!
The Importance of Seed Banks
1. Preservation of Crop Diversity
This is the most important reason for the storage of seeds. Just as human beings and animals are adapted to different conditions for survival, so are crops. Different types of the same species exist due to this adaptive nature. Therefore, it is of critical necessity that such diversity is preserved.
2. Protection from Climate Change
For a couple of decades now, the world has witnessed radical climatic change that has been accelerated by increased industrial pollution. Crop extinction is inevitable with such extreme changes. If seeds are stored in seed banks, the danger of total elimination of certain species of crops is eliminated.
3. Protection from Natural Disasters
Natural disasters are unforeseen events that could lead to complete annihilation of crops from the face of the earth. The foresight of keeping seeds in a seed bank could save such a situation. Malaysian rice paddies, for example, were wiped out during the 2004 tsunami and international seed banks provided farmers with seeds that helped them start over.
4. Disease Resistance
Crop diseases are highly contagious and very deadly to plants. A serious breakout could completely eliminate crops. Where diseases have ravaged crops and left no traces that farmers could start on, seed banks can intervene and provide them with seeds that will enable them start on a clean slate.
5. Provide seed material for research
Seeds that are stored in seed banks can be made easily available to scientists and researchers who wish to study these seeds especially if such research could lead to improvement of crop production.
6. Preservation from Man-made Disasters
Man-made disasters such as war and oil spills could lead to the annihilation of crops. Counties that are engaged in war make it difficult for farmers to continue farming and it’s easy for crops to disappear. Once peace is restored, seeds can be retrieved from seed banks and replanted.
Properly stored seeds can stay viable for even millennia, eliminating the risk of losing crops that are critical for the existence of human beings and animals.