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Hearing the words »the most important« safe, we imagined a room filled from top to bottom with gold and precious stones. What a disappointment it was to find that out that nowadays, with our planet being overpopulated and global warming looming, we have to think of something other than riches. Meanwhile, scientists are trying to secure the future of our stomachs. Behind the walls of the Gene Bank of the Research Institute of Crop Production, you will find almost 45,000 kinds of seeds rather than sparkling gemstones...

...after all, if war, global or natural disaster came, we wouldn't be able to eat diamonds. Imagine that you'd never be able to pluck a sweet apple from a tree again! Or that you couldn't simply go to the bakery for fresh rolls...

90 thousand seeds

Thank God, such ideas belongs to the realm of science fiction - for now. However, should something like that happen, the Czech Republic is ready. Behind the walls of Gene Bank, a handful of specialists strive to ensure that the 90,000 seeds are viable and ready to grow at any time and subsequently feed all hungry mouths.

How does it work? Every kind of seed has its own curator, who monitors whether there are enough seeds. If this is not the case, he begins to reproduce the seeds in the laboratory. He then sends them to the Gene Bank, where the more rigorous work begins. The seeds must be cleaned, sorted and germination tested. Germination is an essential quality. Everything is carefully recorded in the documentation.

Semena jsou základem pro další růst plodin.
Semena jsou základem pro další růst plodin. • Source: Pixabay

Expiration in 30 years

Next, the material is dried, poured into jars and stored in giant freezers with a temperature of minus eighteen degrees. There are ten of them in the Ruzyně institute and more than half are full. The bank even stores own-bred specimens from as early as the 1920s, although the institute has not been officially established until 1989.

Germination is monitored every ten years.

"About forty years into their life cycle, the seeds begin to lose germination; it falls sharply, and the material needs to be replenished,"

Vojtěch Holubec, the head of Gene Bank, explained.

V laboratoři se dějí zázraky.
V laboratoři se dějí zázraky. • Source: Pixabay

Rare wheat

Holubec also boasts that wheat is the most widespread collection, because it is crucial for us.

The samples are not only stored but also sent to other interested parties, so our seeds travel to the whole world. For example, Czech soybean was last ordered by Kazakhstan. They would like to start breeding it, so they are looking for materials from around the world. This also affects us, because the last few years have been very dry, so the crop needs to be bred to withstand drought.

But don't think that if you buy your own field, you'll be able to make a call to the Gene Bank asking them to provide you with seeds. They really aren't intended for private use. You need to have a higher purpose than your own business and profit.

Pšenice je pro nás charakteristická.
Pšenice je pro nás charakteristická. • Source: Pixabay

Foreign policy

In conclusion, we don't have to worry that we'll die out of starvation one day. We are insured from all sides.

"Ou most valuable materials are stored also in the Slovak gene bank in Piešťany and in other institutes in the Czech Republic,"

Holubec explains.

"In addition, we are sending samples to the gene bank in Svalbard. There the seeds are stored in former mining shafts,"

he describes the place where nearly a million samples from around the world are stored. "This is how our Czech bank is insured," Holubec concludes.

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Redakční tým
Výzkumný ústav rostlinné výroby, v. v. i.
Drnovská 507/73
161 06 Praha 6 - Ruzyně
cropscience@vurv.cz
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