Pavlovsk Experimental Station

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Coordinates: 59°42′51″N 30°25′25″E / 59.7143°N 30.4236°E / 59.7143; 30.4236

Pavlovsk Experimental Station is an agricultural experiment station and gene bank that is part of the Institute of Plant Industry and situated in Pavlovsk near St. Petersburg, Russia.

"A picture taken through the gate at the Pavlovsk station headquarters."
One of the Pavlovsk Station buildings. It should be noted that many of the varieties at Pavlovsk are stored not as seeds in a vault but as plants in a field.

History[edit]

It was started in 1926 by agricultural scientist Nikolai Vavilov and contains an extensive collection of more than 5,000 varieties of fruits and berries.[1]

The Pavlovsk station's collection contains more than 100 varieties each of gooseberries, raspberries, and cherries. It also contains more than 1,000 varieties of strawberries. More than 90% of the collection is found in no other research collection or genebank.[2]

The collection is a field genebank, meaning that the varieties are stored as plants in the ground. Most of the species concerned do not breed true from seeds, and so the varieties cannot be stored as seeds.

The Pavlovsk station itself fell into German hands during the Siege of Leningrad in 1941-1944, but prior to the arrival of German troops, scientists from the Institute of Plant Industry were able to move much of the station's tuber collection to a location within the city. Twelve of these scientists died of starvation while protecting the Institute's edible collection of tubers and seeds.[3][4]

In 2010 the experimental station faced an uncertain future, because the land it sits on is being sold to a developer who plans to build private homes on the site.[5][6] If this planned development goes forward, much of the collection will be lost. Due to technical issues and quarantine regulations, it would not be feasible to move the collection before demolition of the station is slated to begin.[1] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev recently announced via Twitter that the issue will be "scrutinised".[7] Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has not yet responded to public calls to save the experimental station and its collection.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

The novel Hunger,[9] by American writer Elise Blackwell, is a fictionalized retelling of the plight of the scientists who starved to death while protecting the gene bank's edible seed and tuber collection during the Siege of Leningrad. The song "When the War Came," by the band The Decemberists, also tells the story of these scientists, with one verse saying "We made our oath to Vavilov / We'd not betray the Solanum / The acres of asteraceae / To our own pangs of starvation."

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Fowler, Cary. "Tweet Medvedev: Stop the Destruction of the Future of Food!". huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  2. ^ McCarthy, Michael (June 26, 2010). "World's biggest collection of berries and fruits faces axe". London: www.independent.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  3. ^ Fowler, Cary (2010-08-18). "The Second Siege: Saving Seeds Revisited". www.huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2010-08-24. 
  4. ^ "Celebrated Russian Seed Bank Fights For Its Land". Associated Press accessdate=2010-8-26. 
  5. ^ Rosenthal, Elisabeth (September 10, 2010). "Russia Defers Razing of Seed Repository". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-10. "A quick update on the battle to save a Russian seed bank, the Pavlovsk Research Station outside St. Petersburg: Scientists from across the globe have been appealing to President Dmitri Medvedev to rethink a government decision to allow the seed bank, home to the largest collection of European fruits and berries in the world, to be plowed away to make way for luxury homes." 
  6. ^ "Russian Ministry of Economic Development adopts resolutions destroying the European largest field genebank and replacing it with commercial cottages". www.vir.nw.ru. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  7. ^ "Received the Civic Chamber's appeal over the Pavlov Experimental Station. Gave the instruction for this issue to be scrutinised.". Kremlin Russia tweet. Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  8. ^ "Vital fruit and berry collection set for destruction". www.newscientist.com. Retrieved 2010-07-28. 
  9. ^ Hunger, by Elise Blackwell (Amazon.com)