The Turkish Agriculture and Forestry Ministry has been storing the seeds of all kinds of plants grown across the country in some 32 gene banks in a bid to conserve the rich flora of Turkey from going extinct, the head of the project said on April 30.
“We store every plants’ seeds in these gene banks across the country as a backup,” Nevzat Birişik, the head of the ministry’s Agricultural Research Department, told daily Hürriyet.
Stating the project as a “modern-day Noah’s ark,” Birişik warned about the possibility of different species going extinct due to global climate change.
“Due to climate change, one-third of the living creatures of today will go extinct. These creatures will never exist again. That is why we keep the seeds of all plants from Turkish flora in these gene banks,” he said.
According to the official, the seeds and the genes of plants are kept in special cupboards separately in controlled temperature conditions between -20 to -180 degrees Celsius.
The project is “our biological fortune that we will deliver to the next generation,” Birişik said.
Speaking about these gene banks, Birişik said, “People mostly know about the gene banks located in [the western province of] İzmir and [the capital] Ankara. But they are spread across the country.”
Noting that one of these gene banks is in the northwestern province lying across Istanbul, he said, “We have kept around 100,000 geophytes there.”
Geophytes are perennial plants with an underground food storage organ, such as a bulb, tuber, corm, or rhizome. Though the parts of these plants above the ground can die due to adverse weather conditions such as extreme winters or dry season, they grow back again from the buds on or within the underground portion of the plant when conditions improve. Crocuses and tulips are some of the species that belong to the geophyte group.
Apart from the plants, there are also some animals, fish and microorganisms samples kept in some of these gene banks.
“We have the record of all small and big cattle in the country,” Birişik noted.
“We are working with the livestock industry to find out in which conditions these cattle can survive in the environment in 2030 or 2040,” he added.
The ministry’s department also has another plan for the “protection of creatures.”
“We will establish a national arboretum where we will collect all the backup of plants we keep in the gene banks,” he noted, saying that the country has a strong biological diversity, which could come under threat in the following years.
Giving an example, he said, “Think about the Lakeland in the Mediterranean region. Some 48 percent of the 900 types of endemic plants face the risk of extinction.”
Another topic the official remarked on was Turkey using indigenous seeds in agriculture.
“Cereal seeds and pulses are 100 percent indigenous. Turkey is not dependent on outside sources for seeding in agriculture,” he added.
Saying that the country is selling seeds to Israel, he underlined, “The number of seeds we export is bigger than the number of seeds we import.”
The ministry is also working on a map showing the productivity analysis of Turkish soil.
Within the scope of this work, some 50,000 samples of soil have been collected to be analyzed. “With this project, we will find out what would happen to the soils of the regions across the country in 30 years,” he said.
“For example, if we cannot find new places to plant figs between 2050 and 2080, the production of the fig would decrease to around some 14 percent,” he added.
Making estimations about the productivity rate in the Thrace region, he said the productivity rate of sunflower and wheat would decrease by 66 percent and 73 percent, respectively.