Syrain seed genebank flees conflict


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WHEN war broke out in Syria in March 2011, staff at the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) Genebank near Aleppo kicked into action a plan they had worked on for years - the safe evacuation of the 141,000 packets of crops seeds.

WHEN war broke out in Syria in March 2011, staff at the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) Genebank near Aleppo kicked into action a plan they had worked on for years - the safe evacuation of the 141,000 packets of crops seeds.

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This included wheat and durum varieties which date back to the dawn of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent.

Director of CIMMYT's (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre) global wheat program, Hans Braun, who was in Sydney this week for the International Wheat Conference, said most of the seed had been relocated to Turkey, Indonesia and Morocco.

"ICARDA had started to take the seed out from very early on when there were problems," he said.

He said had this seed resource not been relocated it could have been a tremendous loss for plant breeders.

"I was, 30 or so years ago, in Afganistan, just before the war (Soviet-Afganistan war) broke out.

"We were discussing whether we could get a duplication from the Afganistan gene bank into the CIMMYT gene bank (in Mexico), but then before the contract was signed, war broke out and that seed is all lost.

"Fortunately that didn't happen in Syria."

ICARDA's Genebank holds more than 148,000 accessions, most of which are unique landraces and wild relatives of cereals, legumes and forages, collected from dryland areas around the world.

It also holds more than 1380 strains of rhizobium.

- ANDREW NORRIS

The story Syrain seed genebank flees conflict first appeared on Farm Online.

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