Had the opportunity to go to the Vavilov Institute to talk about local berries and their importance in being conserved in the Vavilov collections, in dachas (gardens) and in the wild. The meeting was really interesting. Luigi Guarino of the Global Crop Diversity Trust blogged as his bad ass self about both days here on the Vaviblog.
The project focused on the importance of berries to the traditional local diets of Russians. This is critically important at a time when Russians are on par with Americans when comparing waistlines. Over 50% of Russians are overweight or obese and stunting (which can pose as a risk factor for weight gain later in the life) of children under two is 10%.
Nikolai Vavilov was a pretty amazing guy. He was a famous Soviet botanist and geneticist. He developed a theory of cultivated plants called the “centres of origins” which are geographical areas where a group of organisms, either domesticated or wild, first develop its distinctive properties. Vavilov went on many botanical-agronomic expeditions collecting seeds from all over the world, like a “seed hunter.”
He brought these seeds back to the Soviet Union and created one of the world’s largest collections of plant seeds in Leningrad (over 200,000 plant seeds), which mainly survived the Siege. His critiques of fellow Soviet agronomist Trofim Lysenko landed him in prison in which he died ironically from malnutrition in 1943. Today, the Vavilov Institute in St. Petersburg Russia still maintains one of the world’s largest collections of plant genetic material.
The Vavilov Institute has recently been in the news because the land of one its vital stations was at risk of being sold by the Russian government to private developers. For now, it is safe.