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Native Seeds Search: Saving the future by looking to the past

Tucson nonprofit giving tours as part of the Pueblos del Maiz festival
Posted at 7:27 PM, Apr 10, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — According to Arizona Game and Fish, rising temperatures threaten important crops and have devastating effects on livestock production.

Tucson’s Native Seeds Search is trying to protect the future by looking to the past.

Since 1983, the organization has made it their mission to preserve seeds native to the Southwest and Northern Mexico. In their founding year, biodiversity across the region had decreased by 80%, says Executive Director Alexandra Zamecnik.

In response, Native Seeds Search created a seed bank to steward these valuable resources and distribute them to those who could save our unique agricultural landscape.

“We consider ourselves an open seed bank where we want these seeds to be accessible to the communities that steward them before us,” Zamecnik says. “The indigenous communities of this region, for farmers of today and also for future farmers.”

Preserving native plants also protects us from the effects of a warming planet. Zamecnik points to the center’s field of corn, which contains traits that are adapted to handle high heat, such as that found in the Sonoran Desert.

Modeling from the University of California-Irvine shows a decline in vegetation cover in the Sonoran Desert between 1984 and 2017 due to high heat. This is at least partly responsible for increases in forest fires and drought.

By distributing seeds native to the region, Native Seeds Search hopes that we can reverse this trend.

“That connection to the corn,” says Zamecnik, “and the connection to growing is what’s so important.”

Native Seeds Search will offer free tours of its center as part of the Pueblos del Maiz festival. The tours last about 90 minutes and cost $15.

Those interested can register on the Pueblos del Maiz website.

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