This year, the N.I. Vavilov All-Russian Institute of Plant Genetic Resources is celebrating its 125th anniversary. The institute’s collection of plant genetic resources is one of the world’s largest. Channel Saint-Petersburg reporter Artyom Sharipov has been lucky to see it.
There are only three specialized herbariums of cultivated plants in the world, and the Vavilov Institute’s is one of them. It took 125 years to collect, now it contains more than 300 thousand specimen, and new items are being added. Researchers study plants and compile their molecular passports using various DNA markers.
The international importance of this work has been recognized by the UNESCO. Plant specimen extinguished in some parts of the planet are to found in the Vavilov Institute’s collection.
Irena Chukhina, leading researcher with the Vavilov Institute, is involved in making plant passports for Russian-selected potato sorts, which allow of checking the compliance of potato samples you find on shop shelves with the variety standards.
Anton Kamnev, junior researcher, studies raspberry and is engaged in selecting a pest resistant variety. He believes this work is very important as Russia is the world’s largest raspberry producer.
Professor Vladimir Kobylyansky, Doctor of Biology, is a science veteran. He selected a new rye species with short stems, which prevents plants from breaking.
‘It was the beginning of a new era. The plant is no higher than a meter while good rye is usually as high as a horseman’, he explains.
Vladimir Kobylyansky is one of the pillars of the Vavilov Institute. He worked with the scientists who survived the Siege of Leningrad during the war and heroically kept the Institute’s collection of plants and seeds. They never touched a single grain of the several tons of the unique cultivated crops stock.
‘They did not view these seeds and tubers as food, it was their duty and their aim to preserve the entire variety of plant genetic resources for future selection”, Yelena Khlestkina, Director of the Vavilov Institute, says.
The future has come, and the specimens preserved then help improve plant qualities now. For example, researchers of the Institute are now engaged in developing a new dietary variety of wheat. Next year, the seeds are to be tested, then the variety is to be registered, and after that, production will start.
Photo: St. Petersburg TV channel