In Terbol, Lebanon, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) stores tens of thousands of seeds sourced from the Fertile Crescent region—an area in Western Asia and North Africa that encompasses modern-day countries including Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and Egypt. The collection, which comprises many seeds from the early origins of agriculture, is part archive, part insurance plan for varietals that go extinct and part research hub where scientists use these ancient seeds to create crops that can withstand our rapidly warming environment. In working with researchers at ICARDA, farmer Dil Thavarajah has bred lentils that contain low digestible carbohydrates. Thavarajah found that these old legume seeds carry humectants, a substance that absorbs moisture and prevents plants from freezing and drying out. Using this gene, Thavarajah developed a legume plant that can grow in the winter in South Carolina—the first crop of its kind to do so. Learn more about these innovations at NPR.
Image courtesy of ICARDA