Portugal sends a thousand seeds to “Noah’s ark”

Lara Oliveira, Portugal – 12 years old

On February 25th, Banco Português de Germoplasma Vegetal delivered 972 samples of corn, beans and wheat to the world ‘seed vault’ in Norway.

It is a reinforcement of the capacity of “Noah’s Ark” that keeps seeds from all over the world in the event of a natural catastrophe or nuclear war. 92 samples of wheat, 60 of beans and the rest of corn were deposited there.

The coordinator of the Banco Português de Germoplasma Vegetal, Ana Maria Barata, explained that Portugal is responsible for supplying maize to countries in the Mediterranean basin (Spain, Italy, Greece) and also to Germany and the Netherlands, in the event of a crisis.

Seed bank containing various seeds and plants from around the world.

“It was a very important moment for us,” said Ana Maria Barata. This was the third time that Portugal sent samples to the World Bank, located in the Svalbard Islands, in the Arctic, in Norwegian territory.

The World Seed Bank is a “safe”, 150 meters deep, which has deposited more than one million seed samples from around the world. In the national “safe”, located in Braga, there are 48 thousand samples of almost 120 species. “Here there are cereals, aromatic and medicinal plants, fibres, horticultural crops, forages and pastures”, explained Ana Maria Barata.

Manual seed selection process.

The agronomist is one of those responsible for preserving the samples and explained that “they are species intended for food” and that if they disappear, they can put human survival at risk. In the refrigerators, seeds are stored between 20 to 40 years and there is a chamber that reaches minus 18 degrees to preserve samples for more than 100 years. “If there is a war, for example, it is important to be on guard,” added the official.

It is on a farm with eight hectares, in the parish of Merelim S. Pedro, that a team of 30 scientists, researchers and technicians preserve the country’s plant heritage.

The Banco Português de Germoplasma Vegetal was born in the 1970’s and is managed by the National Institute for Agricultural and Veterinary Research.

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