Rare Russian horticulture collection under threat

12th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

One of Europe's largest horticultural collections near Saint Petersburg, which had survived the ravages of World War II, is now threatened by real estate construction after a court ruling.

The arbitration court Wednesday upheld the handover of land from the Pavlovsk station, which houses the collection, to a federal building agency which plans to construct cottages there, the Vavilov Horticulture Institute said in its website.

"this ... means the destruction of the collection which includes thousands of kinds of apple trees, cherry trees, wild strawberries, raspberries and other plants that were collected over the past century and of which 90 percent are unique," it said.

Two plots of land, totalling 90 hectares (22 acres) were ceded to the federal agency in 2009.

According to botanists, it would take years to transplant the Pavlovsk collection, which could prove fatal for the plants.

The Horticulture Institute in Saint Petersburg and its Pavlovsk station were founded in 1920s-1930s by the famed Russian genetics scientist Nikolai Vavilov.

During the World War II siege of Leningrad -- as Saint Petersburg was then known -- 12 of the institute's employees died of hunger rather than touch the collection's wheat and corn seeds.

Scientists appealed to Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev, calling on him to "preserve the future of Russian agriculture."

© 2010 AFP

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