The Nordic Genetic Resource Centre, NordGen, is the Nordic countries’ joint gene bank and knowledge centre for genetic resources. NordGen recently moved its operations to a new climate-certified building, which was officially inaugurated on Monday.
Ministers and Finnsheep
Anna-Caren Sätherberg, Minister of Rural Affairs in Sweden, cut a ribbon twisted from wool from Finnsheep, one of over 140 landrace animals found in the Nordic countries.
Also present were Norway’s Minister for Agriculture and Food Sandra Borch, Finland’s Minister for Nordic Co-operation and Gender Equality Thomas Blomqvist, and the Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers Paula Lehtomäki.
“I’m pleased to be involved in inaugurating NordGen’s new premises, which will provide the best conditions for the completely unique work that’s being done here for a sustainable Nordic Region,” says Paula Lehtomäki.
Biodiversity is crucial
In the new centre, NordGen will invest further in research collaborations with universities and private companies to help secure the future of Nordic agriculture.
“The preservation and utilisation of biodiversity in the best way is crucial for us to be able to produce food also in the future,” says NordGen’s director Lise Lykke Steffensen.
Developing tomorrow’s potatoes
During the day, visitors were treated to a tour of NordGen’s building, which houses a seed laboratory and ‘the most important room in the Nordic Region’, where the Nordic seed collection consisting of just over 33,000 seed samples is stored in freezers.
NordGen also houses the secretariat for Nordic PPP co-operation, a partnership between public and private actors for pre-breeding, a costly and time-consuming first step when developing new crops.
In a sub-project, the properties of over 300 different types of potatoes are being mapped. The knowledge will be used to develop future Nordic potato varieties that are better adapted to cope with diseases that will become more common as the climate changes.
The key to climate-resistant crops
“Climate change affects us all and it’s very important that the Nordic countries work together on the major challenges we face. Genetic resources are key to developing robust crops in the future. If we’re to succeed, we need to increase the exchange of knowledge between private and public actors,” says Lise Lykke Steffensen.
Mapping of wild relatives
Another example is the multi-year pan-Nordic project ‘Wild cultivated plant relatives’ where the most important relatives of our crops in the wild are mapped. The seeds of the most important plants are also collected for preservation at NordGen.
These wild cultivated relatives can carry genetic traits that are important for the development of agricultural crops that can better withstand drought, persistent rain, and infestation by insects and diseases - problems that will become more common as the climate changes.
Forest resilience and preservation of mountain cows
Guests also got to visit NordGen’s greenhouse and look at some of the seedlings that are part of this year’s seed growing season.
In the greenhouse, staff from NordGen Husdjur were on hand to discuss the 3MC project which aims to raise knowledge about threatened mountain cow species in Finland, Norway, and Sweden.
The NordGen Skog section spoke about the importance of genetic diversity in developing resilient forests.