An Indian seed bank in the Himalayas will serve as a backup for Indian genetic material stored in the global seed vault in the Arctic.Indian scientists said the Himalayan facility is the second largest in the world after the Arctic seed vault that opened in Svalbard, Norway, in February 2008 and reported a collection of half a million species in March 2010.
Seed banks are repositories for crop genetic material and insure against species extinction because of natural or manmade disasters.The Defence Institute of High Altitude Research in Leh, in India’s northernmost state of Jammu and Kashmir, built the seed vault 75 kilometres away in Chang La.
The Indian Council of Agriculture Research, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and Department of Biotechnology may use the Himalayan seed bank. Chang La’s permafrost conditions, 20 per cent relative humidity (amount of moisture in the air) and temperatures below minus 18 degrees Celsius, except in May and June, offer a cheap alternative to ‘cryopreservation’ or freezing plant material to minus 196 degrees Celsius, using liquid nitrogen.
Chang La is more accessible than Svalbard and is close to a popular tourist trail. And at 5,360 metres above sea level, there is no danger of melting ice-sheets. Its sealed ‘black box’ design prevents disputes over intellectual property rights.Seed banks worldwide “are the keys to climate change adaptation for the world’s farmers”,