Again, IITA ships seeds to global vault in June

By Godwin Atser

Again, IITA ships seeds to global vault in June May 20, 2009 Ibadan, Nigeria Africa s leading agricultural research partner, IITA, will make its second shipment of African seeds to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in June. The move is aimed at preserving the genetic resources of African crops.

On 30 January 2008, IITA made history as the first international agricultural institute to have shipped 21 boxes filled with 7,000 unique seed samples of mandate crops from more than 36 African nations to the Vault.

This year s shipment will involve about 5,000 seed samples of soybean, maize, bambara nut, cowpea, and African yam bean, in more than 10 seed boxes, said Dr. Dominique Dumet, Head of IITA s Genetic Resources Center.

The whole aim of the shipment to Svalbard is about conservation of genetic resources and agrobiodiversity for humanity, she added.

Agrobiodiversity a term which captures all forms of life directly relevant to agriculture: from crop varieties to crop wild relatives, livestock, and also many other organisms such as soil fauna, weeds, pests, and predators is disappearing faster than at any time since the demise of the dinosaurs.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme s 4th Global Environment Outlook report, the ongoing loss of biodiversity will restrict future development options for rich and poor countries with negative impacts on food security.

To stem the loss of agrobiodiversity, the IITA Genetic Resources Center, which is located in Ibadan, Nigeria, has over the years, conserved more than 28,000 accessions of IITA mandate crops.

The Center houses the world s largest collection of cowpea a key staple in Africa, offering an inexpensive source of protein with over 15,000 unique varieties from 88 countries around the world.

The Svalbard Seed Vault is another safety net designed to hold duplicated genetic resources.

It actually serves as a backup for genetic diversity. For instance, there are some genes in the seeds that we are conserving now that might solve problems of future generations, such as lack of resistance to diseases or tolerance for drought, Dumet explained.

Located on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault secures a seedbank near the town of Longyearbyen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago.