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Vavilov institute, guardian of lost plantsStacked high beneath vaulted ceilings in a czarist-era building, cabinets store the seeds of thousands of plant varieties, many long gone from their original areas of habitat or cultivation. Born in 1887, Vavilov was a botanist and one of Russia's first geneticists.Eighty percent of the seeds in the collection are the only remaining samples of the varieties in the world.In October, the institute sent 30 samples of lost varieties to agronomists in France.In his most active years between 1921 and 1940, Vavilov headed expeditions to 64 countries to collect seeds from both wild and cultivated varieties of plants. One room, measuring about 50 square meters, has the seeds stored in tiny metal boxes at room temperature, much as in Vavilov's time some 70 years ago.
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