new online shop for

nb : sophie is going to the mountains to paint between xmas and new years but you can let her know if you are interested in visiting her north-side brisbane studio : when she gets back ... or alternatively pay a visit to the online shop here. workshops are planned for 2014 along with an artist residency scheduled in the coming months. seasons greetings to all!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Use of genetic diversity to adapt crops to human needs is as old as the Neolithic revolution


Global Ex-Situ Crop Diversity Conservation and the Svalbard Global Seed Vault: Assessing the Current Status

  • Ola T. Westengen mail,
  • Simon Jeppson,
  • Luigi Guarino
    Sophie Munns : Today I am sharing the Introduction to an article well worth reading if you wish to understand more on this topic. 
    "The use of genetic diversity to adapt crops to human needs is as old as the Neolithic revolution[1]. In the 1920s the Russian geneticist and botanist Nicolai Vavilov started systematically collecting and conserving genetic diversity as a resource for crop breeding, making ex-situ (off-site) conservation part of the agricultural R&D system [2]. Crops producing seeds that can be conserved at low relative humidity and low temperature (orthodox seeds) are now commonly conserved ex-situ in genebanks. The two-fold rationale for genebanks is, on the one hand, to conserve diversity that is threatened in-situ (in farmers' fields or in the wild) and, on the other hand, to make genetic resources accessible to users [3]. In the 1930s, the barley breeder Harry V. Harlan was among the first to sound the alarm on genetic erosion of crop genetic resources[4], and, in 1967, a conference in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) initiated what has become the genetic resources movement [5]. In the early 1970s, other hallmark conferences laid out practical action plans for the FAO and the Consultative Group on Agricultural Research (CGIAR) to establish an international network of conservation activities and genebanks [6][7]. While the initial focus was on establishing a small number of genebanks with a global mandate, the FAO currently reports that there are 1750 genebanks around the world [8]. Precarious funding, in combination with less than perfect collaboration and coordination among genebanks, has called into question the ability of many of these facilities to ensure long-term conservation, and genetic erosion inside genebanks has become a major concern [8][9]. The need for proper safety duplication of the world's unique crop genetic resources is therefore an important international priority [8][10][11]."

    Photo: A conservationist holds two vials of peas at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.
    Cary Fowler, former Executive Director of Global Crop Diversity Trust
    Photograph by Jim Richardson, National Geographic

    "The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was established with the “objective to provide a safety net for the international conservation system of plant genetic resources, and to contribute to the securing of the maximum amount of plant genetic diversity of importance to humanity for the long term in accordance with the latest scientific knowledge and most appropriate techniques[12].The Seed Vault is managed in partnership by the Government of Norway, the Nordic Genetic Resource Center (NordGen) and the Global Crop Diversity Trust (the Trust). NordGen is a public regional institute supported by the governments of the Nordic countries, and the Trust an independent international organization based in Bonn, Germany. The Norwegian Ministry of Agriculture and Food is the legally responsible authority for the Seed Vault, and its operation is overseen by an International Advisory Council consisting of international technical and policy experts representing, among others, the FAO, national genebanks, the CGIAR and the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA). The Seed Vault provides free-of-charge, long-term storage of duplicates from genebanks around the world and works as an insurance policy against incremental or catastrophic loss of the original collections (Fig. 1). The international community has called for an effective, efficient and sustainable global system to conserve Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA) in the Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (GPA) [13][14] and the ITPGRFA [15]. The Seed Vault has, in its five years of operation, become a cornerstone in the global system emerging from within this international policy and legal framework, and good progress has been made towards the target of duplicating all the distinct accessions of PGRFA conserved as orthodox seeds around the world. At its fifth anniversary in February 2013, the collection stood at 774,601 seed samples, originating from 95% of the 193 UN member states. All seed samples are safety duplicates of accessions already stored in conventional genebanks, with 53 genebanks having deposited material so far (Fig. 2)."

    To read more on this, + view images and graphs go to ARTICLE.

    At the conclusion is this:
    Symbol for the larger cause
    The Seed Vault has gained considerable international media attention and even fame [40]. We believe that media reports, though occasionally inaccurate, have contributed to increased public awareness about the importance of crop diversity. While conservation of genetic resources has been part of the environmental movement since the seminal UN conference on the human environment held in Stockholm in 1972, it has often been overshadowed by other issues. The Seed Vault has contributed towards raising the profile of this issue on the broader environmental and food security agenda. In the words of the late Nobel Laureate, Wangari Maathai: “The significant public interest in the seed vault project indicates that collectively we are changing the way we think about environmental conservation. We now understand that along with international movements to save endangered species and the rainforests of the world, it is just as important for us to conserve the diversity of the world's crops for future generations.” The Seed vault is not a panacea for securing the future's food supply, but it is an important element in safely conserving the genetic resources necessary for agricultural development. As the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said on the occasion of his visit in the Seed Vault in 2009: “Sustainable food production may not begin in this cold arctic environment, but it does begin by conserving crop diversity.
    In light of the huge media attention directed towards the Seed Vault, it is important to stress that it only makes sense as a part of a global conservation system. The conventional genebanks spread around the world are doing the essential job of conserving, regenerating, multiplying and distributing seeds to those that use them for applied and basic research for agricultural development and increased food security. The Seed Vault is, on the one hand, a high-profile environment and development project and, on the other, a low-tech practical solution increasingly serving a basic global need for the safety duplication of seeds held in conventional genebanks, as documented in our analyses. There are important synergies between these two aspects, and the Seed Vault plays an important symbolic role for enhanced integration and cooperation in the global ex-situ conservation efforts.

    You might also like to read more of this article below from National Geographic:

    Food Ark

    A crisis is looming: To feed our growing population, we’ll need to double food production. Yet crop yields aren’t increasing fast enough, and climate change and new diseases threaten the limited varieties we’ve come to depend on for food. Luckily we still have the seeds and breeds to ensure our future food supply—but we must take steps to save them.

    By Charles Siebert

    It took more than 10,000 years of domestication for humans to create the vast biodiversity in our food supply that we're now watching ebb away. Selectively breeding a wild plant or animal species for certain desirable traits began as a fitful process of trial and error motivated by that age-old imperative: hunger. Wild wheat, for example, drops its ripened kernels to the ground, or shatters, so that the plant can reseed itself. Early farmers selected out wheat that, due to a random genetic mutation, didn't shatter and was thus ideal for harvesting. 

    Thursday, April 10, 2014

    OPEN STUDIO EVENT at Seed.Art.Lab this weekend, April 12 + 13 in Brisbane

    This is a quick post ahead of a big weekend at my Brisbane Studio: Seed.Art.Lab to let you know all are welcome if you happen to be in this region and would like to come along!

    I've just been finessing plans for our wee Pop-up cafe on the side of the Studio plans.... and went back to a favourite book of mine by Diana Henry for the recipe for Yoghurt and Walnut Cake with Coffee Syrup last night. Perhaps the Orange Almond Cake pictured above will be our gluten free offering.... the Walnut cake is not gluten free... but has substantially less flour being laden with walnuts! I go really light on the sugar in it as well... have made this many times and the flavours are sensational without loads of sweetness.

    To read all the details about the event go to the website home page here.

    Also on the home page is the link to the Latest Newsletter which you can read here telling you about my next residency at the brand New Plantbank Seed Research Facility in NSW and this event.

    48 Meemar St
    Chermside 4032
    Brisbane,   QLD
    m: 0430 599 344


    Midday till 5pm both days
    12 + 13 April, 2014

    Tuesday, April 1, 2014

    Up-coming Residency at PLANTBANK.

    In Late April I will take up a two week residency at PLANTBANK at The Australian Botanic Garden south west of Sydney, NSW.



    The Australian PlantBank

    The Australian PlantBank is a science and research facility of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust and is located at the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan. It houses the Trust's seedbank and research laboratories that specialise in horticultural research and conservation of Australian native plant species, particularly those from New South Wales.

    Click here to read much more about this fascinating facility which opened in November 2013 and is a partner project with the KEW Millennium Seedbank in the UK where I did a 3 weeks residency in October 2012.
    One of the projects I will be following up there is:
    Rainforest seed project - a project to save rainforest species, our most vulnerable resource  * Read more here.

    Rainforest fruitsSapindaceaePersoonia
    Images all from the PLantbank site!

    This will be a very tight time frame in which to achieve all that I hope to do... research, documentation,      photos will all be crucial for taking away material I can follow throughout  on back at home. However I felt it would be better to aim for 2 periods of two week residencies so I can make the most of the available resources!
    Watch this space for more information.
    In order to cover expenses I am holding a weekend OPEN STUDIO event April 12 and 13. I'll be posting information on that here and at other sites over the next 10 days. Contact me here for direct information!

    Thursday, March 13, 2014

    Australian contributions to the Svarlbad Global Seed Vault

    Today I am sharing a story directly from the blog of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. Recently I was pleased to connect with them and participate in a video made by them on Seed Diversity and Homage to the Seed. Click on the image on the top RHS of the sidebar to watch the video!

     Last week they brought out a wonderful new video which is posted at the previous blog post.

    And now I am posting this article which involves the Australian partnership found here to share with you... will check I have permission from the Crop Trust to do that right now.

    Its well worth a read...




    Indigenous crop wild relatives, brassica, oats among seeds that find safe haven in Svalbard Global Seed Vault

    It is cold and white outside. The wind blows snowflakes sideways. But the members of the Australian delegation happily brave the weather. On this February 26, 2014 afternoon, they are far from home, at the other end of the globe, 1300 km north of the Artic Circle. They have come to Longyearbyen, Norway, to personally make the latest Australian seed deposit into the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. And with the fail-safe back-up facility as a backdrop, they stand and smile for the cameras. This is a historic moment – for them, for Australia, and the world.
    "These seeds could one day hold the key to boosting productivity or solving the challenges of drought, frost and disease," saysAustralian Grains Genebank (AGG) leader Sally Norton.
    She is now inside the Vault, wearing the obligatory blue hardhat. She stands behind 16 blue boxes -- Australia’s largest deposit yet, brought from the AGG base in Horsham, western Victoria, and from the Australian Pastures Genebank in Adelaide, South Australia.
    Accompanying Dr. Norton are AGG Curator Bob Redden, Australian Pastures Genebank Curator Steve Hughes and Victorian farmer and the Crawford Fund board member Tony Gregson, among others.
    Joining them is former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, who currently is Vice-Chair of the Executive Board of the Crop Trust. Mr. Fischer has personally contributed to the seed collections being deposited today. Ventura wheat and Graza oat seeds come from his farm and have been sealed and saved inside blue box #10, which he personally places inside the cold storage unit that houses more than 820,000 safety duplicates of seeds from all over the world. 
    Dr. Norton and the other members of the delegation place the remaining boxes in the cold room shelves. They then separate in small groups and silently walk the long halls that are filled, floor to ceiling, with boxes.
    “Seeds from Korea, Canada, Peru, Germany, Mexico – the largest collection of crop diversity from across the globe is safeguarded here,” says Mr. Fischer, who assures his compatriots that "the work carried out by the Global Crop Diversity Trust is vital for food security. In times of climatic chaos, the world needs seed diversity and seed security more than ever before.”
    Adding to this diversity, the present shipment includes Australian indigenous wild seed samples, says Dr. Norton.
    “Relatives of sorghum, rice and beans were included, along with the canola, oats, lupins and both temperate and tropical pastures.” She further explains “as Australia is a net importer of crop species, this represents the first deposit of truly Australian indigenous seed material, and is a valuable resource for global food production".
    After a few minutes, the delegation exits the storage unit and slowly makes it s way up the long tunnel that six years ago was carved out of one of the many mountains in Svalbard to create the Vault.  
    Outside the wind is still. Night has fallen. And the Australian shipment has reached its final destination. It is also the last the 20,000+ samples originating from over 100 countries that were deposited in the Vault this past February.


    The Global Crop Diversity Trust works with partners around the world to ensure the conservation and availability of crop diversity for global food security. In 2003 funding from the Australian Government and the Grains Research and Development Corporation helped support the Crop Trust Endowment Fund.
    “We have been successful in raising $170 million for the endowment so far”, says Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Crop Trust. “It is a good beginning, but we need roughly three times as much to safeguard the world’s major collections forever.”


    Though it is relatively close to the Siam-Malaya-Javan region, home to crops such as banana, sugar cane, coconut, breadfruit and mangosteen, Australia has no native crops aside from Macadamia nut. All other foods grown there originally came from elsewhere. Wheat is a good example: with more than 29 millions tons produced in 2012, Australia is one of the world’s largest producers, but the crop was domesticated in the Middle East. The same concept is true for all of Australia’s most important crops, including barley, sugar cane, rapeseed, cotton, sorghum, grapes, and potatoes.
    It therefore may be surprising to realize that Australia contains a wealth of wild relatives of a number of important crops. “Cousins” to the major foods we eat, crop wild relatives contain a diversity of important traits for disease resistance and yield improvement, and may provide critical contributions to breeding for adaptation to climate change.
    The crop wild relatives of Australia include over 150 taxa related to more than 10 crops of major significance -- from the world's most important oil crop (soybean), and one of the world's most important cereals (rice), to crops of major importance for food security in Sub-Saharan Africa (sorghum) and South Asia (pigeon pea).
    In Australia, the greatest wealth of these wild genetic resources occurs in the northern, tropical region, from Western Australia, Northern Territory, and Queensland. And although crop wild relatives are found in all states, this northern region is also where the highest priorities for further collecting are to be found.
    Australia has a high number of priority species that still need to be collected.  The map above shows hotspots for collecting needs for crop wild relatives in Australia that are in the greatest need of collecting.
    Some of these crop wild relatives have already served as important donors of traits for crop improvement, such as wild riceOryza rufipogon, which has proved extremely important to rice for traits such as pest and disease resistance. Others await discovery of their particular value for crop breeding.
    Included in the 16 boxes that were recently deposited in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault are indigenous Australian native plants. “Australia's first contribution to the global genepool of genetic resources being truly Australian material”, says Australian Grains Genebank (AGG) leader Sally Norton.
    This is a major step for Australia in the conservation of wild relatives, which will undoubtedly influence the future of the country’s – and the world’s – agriculture.


    The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has carried out a gap analysis that helps prioritize the species and locations of crop wild relatives that are in most need of collection. 
The work is part of a project led by the Global Crop Diversity Trust in partnership with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and is supported by the Government of Norway. This 10-year project focuses on the wild species in the genepools of 26 crops of major importance to food security that fall under Annex 1 of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
    • Developed under the project “Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Collecting, Protecting, and Preparing Crop Wild Relatives” and building upon its activities, the Crop Wild Relatives website is dedicated to compiling and providing information on the taxonomy, distribution, conservation status and breeding potential of the wild relatives of major crops.
    • A “Prioritized crop wild relative inventory to help underpin global food security” was published last October in Biological Conservation. The study brings together critical primary information on crop wild relatives’ species identities—distributions and relatedness information— on a global scale in order to inform conservation efforts.
    For More Information on Australia’s work on the conservation of crop diversity:

    Saturday, March 8, 2014

    The Crop Trust, Feeding a Growing World

    Please take a look at this just released video from the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

    A must see!

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