A wild, cyclone-resistant bean on the edge of extinction has been preserved by scientists on a mission to conserve the diversity of the world’s crops and nourish weather-battered communities.
The Crop Trust, which has supported a major deposit 4,335 samples of seeds into the world’s largest seed bank: the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, located about 1,300 km from the North Pole. One of which is the wind-resistant Bermuda bean, which Marie Haga, executive director of the crop trust at the seed vault describes as a special case for those working to preserve the diversity of the world’s plants. The endangered bean has earned a place in a conservation bank intended to preserve international species.
The Bermuda bean is extremely rare in the wild and is found only in rocky woodlands between Castle Harbour and Harrington Sound.
“Because the climate is so challenging it is gold to find a bean like this, the Bermuda bean, that has some of the traits that is required now with today’s weather,” says Haga. “Undoubtedly with the weather as we see it, with the increasing number of storms and crazy weather, this bean can prove to be awfully important right now in many parts of the world.”
“This Bermuda bean has very strong roots and that is a trait that we are eager to develop these days as we see that storms are increasingly catching up with us,” Haga says. “We know that due to climate change, the weather will be wilder, it will be rougher, it will be crazier and that will require a lot from our plants. Having beans or other crops with big, solid root systems is awfully important.”
The Svalbard Seed Vault, established in 2008, is the world’s insurance policy for crop diversity, acting as a storage unit for 1,700 genebanks around the world. Scientists, farmers, or breeders who want to access the beans are given free access to use them as needed to propagate the seeds throughout the globe.
“In an increasingly more difficult climate, this bean could probably feed families in the future so the conservation effort in this is extremely limited through the value of keeping it.” Haga states. “These days the climate changes so fast that the plant aren’t able to adopt equally fast, so that is actually a fundamental, no the fundamental, challenge for food production.”