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Commonwealth Potato Collection seeds deposited in Global Seed Vault

Jane Robertson (l) and Gaynor McKenzie at Global Seed Vault (Jane Robertson)
“By consigning CPC genetic material into the Global Seed Vault, we hope to preserve these valuable genetic resources for generations to come”

The Commonwealth Potato Collection (CPC), a unique repository of potato germplasm held in trust by the James Hutton Institute with support from the Scottish Government, has made the first-ever seed deposit by a UK institution into the Global Seed Vault.

Seeds from the CPC are part of a major deposit critical to ensuring global food security, which included nearly 50,000 samples of seeds from collections in Benin, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Netherlands, the U.S, Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus and the UK. 

Situated in a sandstone mountain on the Svalbard archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the Global Seed Vault is the world’s largest collection of agricultural biodiversity. It is a safe and secure vault supported by the Crop Trust which can store up to four and a half million samples of crops from all over the world. By preserving duplicate samples of seeds held in gene banks worldwide, the vault provides a “fail safe” insurance against loss of crop diversity caused by climate change, natural disasters or war.

The CPC was established in the late 1930s by British botanists and collectors, and the James Hutton Institute is responsible for its curation and maintenance. Its purpose is to safeguard the genetic diversity of lodged material and make it available to researchers and breeders. Scientists at the James Hutton Institute have used the germplasm contained in the CPC to address challenges to potato growers and breed well-known varieties such as Lady Balfour, Vales Sovereign and Mayan Gold.

Dr Glenn Bryan, research group leader at the Institute’s Cell and Molecular Sciences, said:  “The CPC forms a vital component of our research and breeding at the Hutton. It is a potent source of genes against new disease threats as well as against the effects of climate change.”

Speaking from the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Ms. Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Crop Trust said: “Today’s seed deposit at Svalbard supported by The Crop Trust shows that despite political and economic differences in other arenas, collective efforts to conserve crop diversity and produce a global food supply for tomorrow continue to be strong.

“Together, the nations that have deposited their seed collections account for over a quarter of the world’s population. Nearly every country has agreed on the importance of conserving crop diversity through Target 2.5 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to conserve agricultural diversity in seed collections. Crop diversity is a fundamental foundation for the end of hunger.”

Professor Colin Campbell, Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, commented: “The efforts of early pioneers and subsequent plant scientists in establishing and maintaining the CPC have become even more precious, given that new predictions estimate a global population of 11 billion by 2100 and the importance of potato as a key staple food crop in many regions of the world.

“By consigning CPC genetic material into the Global Seed Vault, we hope to preserve these valuable genetic resources for generations to come.”

The Crop Trust provides crucial funding and training for routine genebank operations, such as quality and information management. Without this basic support for diverse varieties of food crops – like the ones that travel to Svalbard – the future of the world’s global food supply is at risk. The Crop Trust’s funding allows millions of plant genetic resources to be recorded and ultimately shared and used around the world to improve agricultural production and prevent loss of crop diversity in the face of natural disasters, climate change and war.

For more information about the Crop Trust’s critical work, and to find out more about a new fundraising initiative - backed up by GoPro’s 'GoPro for a Cause' program – which seeks to help the Svalbard Seed Vault ensure ongoing crop conservation, read the Crop Trust’s press release.

Besides the Hutton-hosted CPC, institutions depositing at Svalbard in February 2017 include:

  • Seeds Savers Exchange – United States of America
  • International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) – Morocco and Lebanon
  • National Agricultural Research Centre – Pakistan
  • International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) – Mexico
  • National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources – India
  • Centre for Genetic Resources (CGN) – Netherlands
  • AfricaRice – Benin
  • National Academy of Sciences of Belarus
  • Genetic Resources Institute, University of Banja Luka – Bosnia and Herzegovina

The CPC database, developed in collaboration with the CPC team by the Information and Computational Sciences group at the James Hutton Institute in Invergowrie, holds background information and images on each of the CPC accessions that have been deposited in the Global Seed Vault. It is based on the Germinate platform which is used to aid in the dissemination of genetic resources data to the global community.

Notes to editors:

The Crop Trust is the only international organisation devoted solely to ensuring the conservation and availability of crop diversity worldwide. It was initially founded by the UN FAO and Biodiversity International on behalf of the global community. Half a billion dollars in total has now been invested by governments and the private sector in the work of the Crop Trust since 2004.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the largest collection of agricultural biodiversity in the world. Located in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, the Seed Vault is owned by the Norwegian Government and operated under a three-party agreement between the Norwegian Government, NordGen and the Crop Trust. Depositors to the Seed Vault still own the samples that they deposit and only they can retrieve the material if required.

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).


Printed from /news/commonwealth-potato-collection-seeds-deposited-global-seed-vault on 21/09/18 07:20:36 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.