I have some more information on the seeds-in-the-Argentine-Antarctic story. A book was distributed yesterday at SIRGEALC entitled Avances de Investigación en Recursos Genéticos en el Cono Sur 2. It was put together by the regional plant genetic resources network for the Southern Cone (REGENSUR) and came out earlier this year.1 In it there’s a paper by BS Rosso and ME Ferrer, of one of Argentina’s agricultural research stations, describing a singular experiment.
It seems that, in 1983, batches of seed of maize and soyabean were dried, sealed into aluminium foil bags, placed in aluminium containers and left in ambient conditions at three research and military installations, two of then in the Argentine Antarctic2 and one in southern mainland Argentina. Twenty years later, the seeds were tested for germinability. The samples left at the sites in the Antarctic, which enjoyed average temperatures of -18°C and -2°C, hardly degenerated at all in percentage germination. The seed batches left at 9.5°C did, substantially.
So I don’t think that germplasm is actually been safety duplicated under ambient conditions in the Argentine Antarctic. But it could be…
LATER: Well, maybe not. Marcelo Ferrer is here at SIRGEALC and I had a nice chat with him in front of his poster, which happened to be about maize characterization — he’s a maize breeder. I asked him whether, after his experiment, there were any plans to duplicate the Argentinian seed collections in the Antarctic. He said it would not be very practical. The only way to get to the bases is by sea, and then only for a short period each year. Some years, it’s not possible to get there at all because of the ice. Climate change may make access a bit easier, I guess, but you’d probably want your duplicate collection to be a little closer to hand.
- It should in due course appear on the publications page of the PROCISUR website, like its companion volume from 1999. PROCISUR is the regional agricultural research and development coordination mechanism for the Southern Cone. [↩]
- The map will show you the location of Base Jubany, one of the sites. [↩]