Seed Savers Exchange Ships Two More Crates to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Preparing Seeds for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

The careful process of preparing seeds for Svalbard

Untouchable by hurricanes, impervious to tectonic movement, protected by polar bears, and reachable only through methods worthy of reality television – the Svalbard Global Seed Vault provides the ultimate in long term storage for seed. On February 14th, Seed Savers Exchange sent its sixth shipment of seed to the vault, located on a remote archipelago in arctic Norway. This vault serves as a global gene bank for the world’s food crops, and will provide long-term back up for Seed Saver Exchange’s preservation collections. To date, Seed Savers Exchange has deposited a total of 2,248 unique varieties, and continues to deposit seeds of several hundred varieties every year.

To prepare the seeds for long-term storage, seeds are dried until they have approximately 5% moisture content, and are then heat sealed into air-tight packets. Once inside the vault, the packets will be kept at 0°F (-17°C) and will remain viable for a very long time. Similar to a safe deposit box at the bank, only Seed Savers Exchange has access to the materials deposited. This ‘Black Box’ agreement is made with each depositor, and ensures that only the depositor can access their own seeds in the vault.

Shipping Seeds to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault

Aaron Burmeister (SSE Collection Technician, Seed Storage) prepares the shipment

The Svalbard seed vault was built deep into mountainous permafrost, which keeps the vault at below freezing temperatures even without a cooling system. Furthermore, its treacherous and remote location protects the vault from possible harm due to natural disasters and human powered calamities like a nuclear bomb strike. This kind of protection ensures Seed Savers Exchanges’ seeds will be safe for many years to come.

“As one of 1400 seed banks in the world, Seed Savers Exchange is proud to deposit an additional 366 varieties in the Svalbard Global Seed Bank in Norway, bringing our total deposits to more than 2,000 varieties. The global seed bank, with 725,000 total deposits, represents man’s best efforts to ensure that today’s seed varieties are available for future generations.” – John Torgimson, Seed Savers Exchange president.

Read more about the genetic resources preservation efforts at Seed Savers Exchange here.

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  1. chuck kottke says:

    Fantastic way to keep the genetic diversity secure, glad you’re doing this! I would imagine another useful matter would be to see how much genetic drift occurs over time in given varieties, akin to how we might compare the living romance languages to Latin.

  2. Greg Rebman says:

    This protection is critical. I’d also be interested in an in-depth article discussing the whole process and costs incurred, such as delivery, varietal selection and upkeep.

    I worked for a short time @ a USDA ARS lab in Champaign, IL many years ago and we sent soybean varietals to be stored underground @ NORAD in Colorado Springs. The process @ Svalgard sounds more secure to me.