Plant breeders have announced the first cash contributions to a fund designed to for the upkeep of more than 1500 endangered collections of seeds in perpetuity.

“Many of the world’s seed banks are in a perilous state,” said Geoff Hawtin, director of the Rome-based International Plant Genetic Resources Institute, a World Bank-backed body that oversees the world’s seed collections.

Seed banks are being lost because governments will not fund them, equipment is failing and vital regeneration of seeds – which requires collections to be planted out every few years so that fresh seeds can be harvested – is not happening.