Seed-Saving & Science

The experiment is a multicentury attempt to figure out how long seeds can lie dormant in the soil without losing their ability to germinate. Derrick L. Turner/Michigan State University

Cara Giaimo has a talent linking science and history, and this article demonstrates it as well as any we have linked to from her. Saving seeds is favorite topic in our pages, so this is in good company:

One of the World’s Oldest Science Experiments Comes Up From the Dirt

Every 20 years under the cover of darkness, scientists dig up seeds that were stashed 142 years ago beneath a college campus. Continue reading

Seeds Are Our Future

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Lotus flower seed heads and raw, un-puffed lotus seeds.

Lotus flower first appeared in these pages years ago, but its seeds were never mentioned. Time to correct that. We missed the opportunity to mention this book when it was first published–we missed the enthusiastic review–but better late than never. Thanks to the folks at Gastropod for the shoutout in a recent episode that gives Thor Hanson and his book their due:

Seeds

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When seeds first evolved, hundreds of millions of years ago, they not only revolutionized the plant world, but they also eventually sowed the path for human civilization. Today, it’s nearly impossible to eat a meal without consuming a plant embryo—or many. But how did seeds come to play such a critical role in human history? Why might one seed in particular, the lotus seed, hold the secret to immortality? And, perhaps just as importantly, how does this magical seed taste?

Preserving Biodiversity to Feed the World

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Thanks again to Atlantic for its occasional short film series, and in this case specifically to Erica Moriarty for bringing our attention to a video by Independent Lens available for sampling over at PBS (click the image above):

In the last century, 94% of the world’s seed varieties have disappeared. Family farmsteads have given way to mechanized agribusinesses to sow genetically identical crops on a massive scale. In an era of climate uncertainty and immense corporate power, farmers, scientists, lawyers, and indigenous seed keepers are on a mission to defend the future of food. Botanical explorer Joseph Simcox has been to over 100 countries, collecting thousands of seeds. In this documentary from Independent Lens, he travels to the Peruvian Amazon. Continue reading

Opening the Arctic Vault

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was inaugurated in 2008. The "doomsday vault" lies inside an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. For the first time, scientists are taking some seeds out. PHOTO: John McConnico/AP

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault was inaugurated in 2008. The “doomsday vault” lies inside an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard. For the first time, scientists are taking some seeds out. PHOTO: John McConnico/AP

The ongoing civil war in Syria has led to the first-ever withdrawal from the Svalbard “doomsday” Global Seed Vault, a giant storage unit for plant seeds that’s tucked into the side of a frigid mountain in Norway. In the seven years since the Vault opened, hundreds of thousands of seed samples have gone into its icy tombs. And not one has come out—until now. This week the International Center for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas asked for the return of 325 little black boxes of seeds it had stored in the Svalbard vault. For many years, the center housed its own seed bank near Aleppo, Syria. Now, its scientists hope to use the Svalbard samples to regenerate that collection outside of their war-torn home.

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Indian Licorice – Abrus precatorius

Photo credits : Shymon

Photo credits: Shymon

Indian Licorice (Abrus precatorius) is a native of India and the tropical and sub-tropical areas of the Western Ghats. Despite its name, Indian Licorice is not closely related to the licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) that lends its flavor to candies, beverages, and other foods. The seeds are bright red and black in color and highly poisonous. Continue reading