FacultyNewsSciencePublicationsJobs and educationBusiness cooperationContact

Storing seeds for the future

On 1 March the Danish minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Hans Chr. Schmidt, and the Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Halldór Ásgrímsson, inaugurated the storage facilities for one of the Nordic Gene Bank’s collections of seeds which has been moved from Sweden to Research Centre Aarslev.

The Nordic Gene Bank, which is part of the Nordic Council of Ministers, has for more than 25 years collected and stored old varieties of seeds from the Nordic countries. These have until recently been kept at the agricultural university at Alnarp in Sweden. But as the university also houses another archive of old varieties, the Nordic Gene Bank deemed it necessary to keep the collections separate in case of accidents such as a fire. Thousands of seeds have therefore been moved to Aarslev, which is now part of the University of Aarhus.

- As this is a Nordic institute, it was natural to place the collection in Denmark. At Aarslev we had some suitable facilities that we did not use and we therefore came up with the solution of moving the collection to Aarslev, explains Ole Callesen, who in addition to being Research Director of the Department of Horticulture at Aarslev is also Chairman of the board of the Nordic Gene Bank.

Thirty freezers

The freezing facilities at Research Centre Aarslev have been provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the minister, Hans Chr. Schmidt, is very pleased with the move to Aarslev:

- I am pleased that the ministry was able to help protect the seed collection by providing the necessary facilities. Plant genetics is an area that gets high priority and that we are willing to do something extra for.

He also points out the importance of having old varieties available at a time when an intensified agricultural production is moving towards having relatively few, high-yielding plant varieties.

- The gene pool is getting smaller and smaller and this can become a serious issue. Mostly because we by focusing on a few varieties may forget other varieties that could turn out to have useful qualities in relation to new plant diseases, says Hans Chr. Schmidt.

More variability

The minister also believes that having older varieties could benefit consumers.

- Variability in a particular crop gives variation on the dinner plate. Several of the old varieties taste very different from the varieties we currently buy at the supermarket, he says.

Halldór Ásgrímsson also finds the old varieties valuable, not least in relation to the climate changes taking place.

- Who knows – maybe some time in the future you will be able to grow Swedish wheat from Øland on Greenland. We may need more drought-resistant varieties, and we may be invaded by new plant insects and diseases, and then it is good to have a collection of genes that are able to meet the challenges we face in the future, says the Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

For further information please contact:

Research director Ole Callesen, telephone: +45 8999 3265, or mobile: +45 2099 1766.

Tuesday 10 April 2007 | Communication Unit