Save our seeds

The scientific community have mobilised to save the threatened Pavlovks Experimental Station, which hosts a gene bank in the outskirts of St Petersburg. The facility holds genetic plant material – 90% of their plant seeds can not be found anywhere else in the world.

Save our seed bank

The announcement that property developers want to destroy the facility startled the world’s scientific community. Many scientist and organisations have voiced their support to save this valuable scientific resource by sending letters to the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.

In response, the Russian president delayed the auction of the land and answered in his twitter: “Received the appeal over the Pavlovks Experimental Station. Gave the instruction for this issue to be scrutinised”.

“The gene bank of Pavlovsk is very important because there we can find many varieties of seeds in situ. It will be an irreparable damage for the world if they destroy that germplasm with varieties that only there we can find,” recognises José María Egea, Professor of Botanic Science at the Univesity of Murcia, Spain.

Pavlovks seed bank is essential

Seed banks come in differente forms, some are climate-controlled vaults containing seeds, others are farms with pastures, like Pavlovks.

Pavolvks seed bank was founded by Nikolay Vavilov in 1926 and is one of the eleven seed banks he created across the Soviet Union. Vavilov traveled the world collecting plants but in 1933 he was accused of supporting the science of genetics and his work was criticised by his former pupil Trofim Lysenko. In 1940 Vavilov was arrested and condemned to death, but eventually died of hunger.

Today, the Pavlovks seed bank has more than 4,000 varieties of fruits and berries, including more than 100 examples of each of gooseberries, raspberries and cherries, and almost 1,000 types of strawberries.

These old varieties are still needed to provide genes to protect commercial varieties against new threats like pests to climate change. The demand of supermarkets, who want uniform products, has produced a severe genetic erosion. Preserving genetic variety is important.

The ultimate fate of the Pavlovks facility has not yet been determined and a final push is expected in the coming weeks.

Featured image credit: via Shutterstock

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