The UK’s genebank of landrace and wild potatoes is to be the first ever British deposit into the Global Seed Vault which secures and protects genetic material on a remote island between Norway and the North Pole.
The Commonwealth Potato Collection (CPC) is known as a priceless repository of potato genetic material held in trust by the James Hutton Institute.
The collection is en route to the island of Spitsbergen in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, joining the world’s largest collection of plant seeds that need to be preserved in the event of global crises.
The vault is a fail-safe storage facility built to stand the test of time and the challenges of man-made or natural disasters. It protects invaluable genetic resources from possible future catastrophic global environmental events and is often referred to as the “Doomsday Vault”.
The seedbank is 390 ft (120 metres) inside a sandstone mountain and employs robust security systems. The facility has no permanent on-site staff and is managed by the Nordic Genetic Resource Centre.
The CPC was established by British botanists and collectors in the late 1930s and is one of only seven large potato genetic banks that safeguards the genetic diversity of the crop for researchers and breeders.
The James Hutton Institute is responsible for the curation and maintenance of the CPC with support from the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Programme.
“The efforts of early pioneers and subsequent plant scientists in establishing and maintaining the CPC have become even more precious, given that new predictions estimate a global population of 11 billion by 2100, and the importance of potato as a key staple food crop in many regions of the world,” said professor Colin Campbell, chief executive of the James Hutton Institute.
“By consigning CPC genetic material into the Global Seed Vault, we hope to preserve these valuable genetic resources for generations to come.”
The Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham, added: “I am delighted to see the first seed deposits from any UK institute being sent to the Global Seed Vault at Svalbard.”
“The contribution of seeds from Scotland’s Commonwealth Potato Collection underlines the global importance of the science undertaken at the James Hutton Institute and our commitment to protecting our plant collections.
“Protecting these seeds in the Vault ensures that the Commonwealth Potato Collection will be available for future potato breeders to cope with challenges which may arise as a result of climate change and will help maintain both Scotland’s economy and global food security.”