Making a Withdrawal

Like a bank, only those who deposit seeds are able to take seeds out. When certain seeds are at the end of their life, a depositor can take them out. The depositor can grow them and create fresh seeds. Then they can send new seeds to the vault.

Has anyone ever needed the seeds they’ve stored? Yes. Just ask Syria. In 2011, the country was on the brink of civil war. So, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) sent 100,000 types of seeds to Svalbard.

In 2015, they asked Svalbard to return their seeds. The seeds were planted to get fresh ones. Some were sent back to Svalbard.


Domestic Crops

The Svalbard seed bank can help with future problems, too. A germ that hurts wheat was found in Uganda in 1999. The germ is carried by the wind. It will spread to other countries. First, India. Then, Australia. In time, it will reach the United States. We need to have wheat that can resist this germ—by the time it arrives. That’s yet another reason why we need seed banks!

A scientist looks at a crop grown from seed bank seeds

From the Svalbard Vault

Bambara groundnuts

This plant is grown by farmers in Africa. The nuts are usually dried and ground into flour. The flour is used to make dumplings, cakes, and biscuits.

Pigeon peas

Pigeon peas have very deep tap roots. The root breaks through hard soil. This churns up the soil and makes it better. Pigeon peas are used to make dal, a dish in India.

Black‑eyed peas

Black‑eyed peas are grown in Africa. They can handle hot and dry conditions. They also help the soil. They make fields fertile again for other crops.