Vavilov's legacyCarmelo Ruiz Marrero
Every modern society needs a substantial public investment in agricultural research. And such research requires the acquisition of useful plant and seed specimens from all over the world. It is no different in the case of socialist societies. During the first half of the twentieth century the Soviet Union was a world leader in the fields of genetics, plant science and the study of agricultural biodiversity, in large part thanks to the colossal work of one single individual: botanist Nikolai I. Vavilov.
One of the most important scientists of the twentieth century, Vavilov carried out intrepid voyages through five continents collecting seeds of agricultural plants, such as corn, potato, grains, forages, fruits and vegetables, as well as valuable data about the geography of the places he visited and about the languages and cultures of their inhabitants.
Vavilov participated in some one hundred expeditions to over fifty countries and collected over 200,000 specimens. No other individual in history has come even close to equaling such a feat. Thanks to his collecting expeditions, the USSR's seed collection was the biggest in the world during his time. These seeds were stored and planted in agricultural research stations distributed throughout the extremely diverse terrains and climates of the Soviet Union. His ideas and concepts of agriculture, biodiversity and geography remain to this day so influential that the places of origin of the world's most commonly planted agricultural crops are named Vavilov centers.