You may be reassured to learn that when nuclear or natural disaster desolates the world, seed from Glen Innes will survive.
Last Wednesday, samples of seed from Glen Innes crops were deposited in what’s known as the Doomsday Vault on the remote island of Svalbard in the north of Norway, towards the North Pole.
In sub-zero temperatures, pasture and grain seeds from New South Wales, including from the collections at Glen Innes, were sealed deep in the earth as part of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a project to safeguard seeds against global disaster.
The seeds were originally from the collections at the NSW Agricultural Research Station at Glen Innes as well as similar institutions at Grafton and Wagga Wagga.
The seed deposited included cultivars (plants selected for good characteristics for growth and propagation) of white clover – the main legume in our high rainfall pasture zone which is this particular part of New England.
On top of that, a species of grass – phalaris – was included to represent New South Wales because it was first selected for improvement here a century ago. It symbolises the attitude to improvement among settlers in northern NSW. It’s become one of the most widely grown temperate perennial grass species in the state.
Other significant seeds from NSW in the Norwegian vault include the Australian Glycine species which is unique to the Australian environment. These species have great potential for grazing industries.
On top of that, grain seeds from 1,260 Australian bread wheats from the Australia Winter Cereals Collection in Tamworth are in the vault. They represent the history of early wheat varieties bred in Australia.
Australia’s involvement with the Svalbard seed vault started in 2014 when a delegation travelled there to deposit 1,500 oat samples.
The idea behind the seed vault is that if the worst ever happens and life has to be restarted, the basis of our agricultural knowledge – the very seeds – will not have been lost. From the seeds deep in the frozen earth of Svalbard, new crops can be grown. All would not be lost.
On a slightly less bleak note, the seed vault also offers a back-up to local and national seed banks. If an agricultural industry were devastated in one part of the world, for example, the back-up seed would be available from Norway.
Or if, say, global warming made a new crop feasible in a region while other crops became unfeasible, the seed bank could supply the seeds to get the new crop going.