Seeds are the beginning and the end. Protecting plant varieties and maintaining diversity is a constant challenge. A challenge that Nikolai Vavilov took seriously.
Nikolai Vavilov, a Russian agronomist, is still recognized as one of the most prominent plant breeders. He assembled the most extensive collection of seeds, approximately 400,000 from five continents. Vavilov led 115 expeditions to 64 countries, such as Afghanistan, Iran, Taiwan, Korea, Spain, Algeria, Palestine, Eritrea, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Mexico and the US, to collect seeds of crop varieties and their wild ancestors. His goal was to protect and increase agricultural production in a significant effort to end hunger on the planet, particularly in its own great country.
Vavilov directed his work by identifying, collecting and studying cultivated plants to preserve their diversity. He was also the author of more than ten books on the subject. In addition, he put into practice his theories of how to save seeds of precious species, and many of the seeds he collected are still intact.
His story ends with his sad imprisonment under Stalin’s rule in Russia. When Hitler’s army invaded Leningrad, his fellow scientists gathered green tubers from the experimental fields and hid in the laboratory. While saving the valuable seed collection, some scientists preferred starvation instead of eating the bundles of rice, corn, and other precious seeds on their tables.
Vavilov died in prison, the Gulag, in 1943.
All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.
The principles of sustainability combined science with the ethics of preserving species diversity. A true hero of the saving seed movement. Today Nikolai Vavilov is recognized as the father of the modern seed bank.
Data shows that globally, 1.5 billion farmers are involved in on-farm conservation and breeding, selecting varieties and improving crops on a day-to-day basis.
If you are interested in becoming a legend Seed Saver, you can find some great information out there. The Seed Savers is a network working to conserve, in culture, seeds of traditional varieties of plants for food and other uses.
In the following articles, we’ll look at what seeds are best to start saving. Read more about how you could be the solution to saving the planet here.
From Corgis to Corn: A Brief Look at the Long History of GMO Technology – Gabriel Rangel, Harvard University .
Lucy Legan is a writer, gardener, permaculture educator, food forester and bestselling author of Planet Schooling – How to create a permaculture living laboratory in your backyard. She lives in Mullumbimby with her family.