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Vavilov: A seed bank in Lyon to preserve biodiversity


Vavilov: A seed bank in Lyon to preserve biodiversity

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The number of fruit and vegetable varieties is becoming poorer as a result of intensive farming and the intervention of the world's seed giants, and their quality is also weakening. Fruits and vegetables have lost much of their nutritional value. 

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Lyon was the world's largest center for the creation of varieties of fruit, vegetables and flowers thanks to its geographical position at the confluence of three climates.

The Lyon branch of the Vavilov seed conservatory, a veritable sanctuary, appears to be essential, when we know that under the effect of industrialization, 80% of the vegetables grown 50 years ago have now disappeared.


Located on the Melchior farm, a former agricultural estate of several hectares in the commune of Charly near Lyon, a branch of the conservatory of the Russian Vavilov project was inaugurated in April 2019. A thousand fruit trees will be grown there, but also a hundred varieties of vegetables, cereals, aromatic herbs, some of which are almost five centuries old. More than 300 varieties from Lyon, that are very little cultivated today, were discovered in the Vavilov seedbank of Saint-Petersburg and will thus come back to life. On the occasion of the opening of the new branch/center near Lyon, three plant varieties will be solemnly sown: Bresse corn, straight out of the 17th century, a very melliferous Russian sunflower with several stems and several flowers and a climbing bean.

With a budget of 400,000 euros per year, the new seedbank will include a documentation center, a nursery and a shop. In addition, the project provides for the launch of 15 connected gardens in different cities in France and is intended to raise public awareness of the challenges of biodiversity.

Project Leaders

The Vavilov Project, named after the St. Petersburg Botanical Institute founded in 1894, is the oldest seed bank in the world. 325,000 varieties of plants and seeds from around the world have been preserved there for a century. Cooperation with the city of Lyon and the Russian Valivov Institute began in 2013 and has notably been built thanks to the action of the Applied Botany Resource Center (CRBA) and the company TARVEL.

The Little Extra

The Melchior farm will also be open to the public with an educational mission, aimed at schoolchildren and gardeners invited to embark on the breeding of varieties. The seeds will be distributed free of charge with specific training to make the best use of them. The beneficiaries will be required to give seeds from their own harvest in exchange, the following year.

Written by Alice Deshons, LFC volunteer - April 2019.

Last modification : 30 Mar 2020.

Vavilov: A seed bank in Lyon to preserve biodiversity

Ferme Melchior 357 rue de l’Église 69390 Charly

The Nicolaï VAVILOV agronomic experimentation station is located at the heart of the Melchior Farm, a veritable laboratory of European biodiversity adapted to climate change.
It offers the study of local and global varieties, in order to make available to all, the genetic resources necessary for our food and our environment.


Stéphane CROZAT
Directeur du CRBA