In a secure, temperature-controlled vault in Fiji's capital of Suva, stacks of tiny vials hold several plantations-worth of sprouting plants. The dazzling display of banana, taro, breadfruit, yam, and other seedlings represents a backup collection of the most important varieties of crops in the Pacific region.
Of the 2,200 varieties of 18 crops, many are the last of their kind. They've been collected and maintained for 25 years at the Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT) — the Pacific's main regional gene bank — to preserve agricultural plants for future generations.
Much like the famed "doomsday" seed vault in Svalbard, CePaCT is a last line of defense in case species or varieties are lost over the coming decades. But unlike Svalbard's vault, CePaCT focuses not on storing seeds but on propagating (and re-propagating) plants as tiny bottled-up sprouts. It's intensive and complicated but necessary to ensure potentially vital crop varieties survive.
Here's what happens inside the Pacific's most important gene bank.