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Seed Backup

Long-term security of crop diversity is a challenging problem. Severe weather events or disease outbreaks can wipe out a farmer's field overnight. Facilities where seeds are stored may experience flooding, fire, theft, or other damage to its contents. This could spell extinction for irreplaceable varieties. These losses occur all too frequently but can be minimized if backup seed collections are stored in other locations.

To help improve seed security for the Southwest, Native Seeds/SEARCH has opened its seed bank as a security backup repository for regional seed collections of tribal, community, and individual seed banks in the Southwest. The backup process, referred to as "black boxing," involves the subission of a physical sample of seeds for safe storage within the NS/S seed storage vault. 

Through the Seed Security Backup Program Native Seeds/SEARCH will:

  • Accept seeds from tribal groups, community seed banks, and individuals in the region who have unique seed diversity that they wish to maintain for future use.
  • Package and catalog these submissions in appropriate packaging or work with the providers on adequate packaging before the seeds are transferred.
  • Store the backup collection inour walk-in-freezer (-18 degrees C). These storage conditions are standard for long-term seed bank storage.
  • Take the same care to ensure the security and viability of the material as it does for NS/S material.

NS/S will not integrate seeds held as backup into our collection nor take on stewardship of those seeds. Rather, we provide for secure and safe long-term storage under frozen conditions so that the submitting organization or individual can access the seeds in the future in the event that their other seed stock becomes unavailable. The program is a safeguard against loss of agricultural biodiversity. NS/S currently has a black-box arrangement for the its own collection with the USDA Agricultural Resources Service in Fr. Collins, Colorado.

Those who submit seeds will:

  • Retain all rights to the material. The seeds will not be formally incorporated into the NS/S collection unless both NS/S and the submitter agree that this is appropriate
  • Be able to withdraw the seeds from the NS/S bank if and when they have need for the seeds.
  • Be assured that no third party can have access to the backup collection

The project will thereby provide an unparalleled service that will give a layer of security to crop adaptation efforts in the region. Please contact us at for more information and to find out how you can be a part of the the NS/S Seed Security Backup Program. There is no charge for the program but we ask that those who submit cover costs associated with shipping to our facility.

Funding for the Seed Security Backup Program provided by a grant from the Gila River Indian Community.