Valentín Maya Blanco has extensive experience in the restoration of Mediterranean meadow grasslands and is currently developing a new line of work on the improvement of vegetation coverings by introducing annual species in permanent crops.
What is your relationship with native seeds?
My relationship with native seeds dates back to 2003, when I joined CICYTEX as the person in charge of the maintenance of the Germplasm Bank of Meadow Legumes at the Finca La Orden-Valdesequera Agricultural Research Institute. The aim of the Germplasm Bank has always been to preserve the existing grassland biodiversity in meadows in the southwestern region of the Iberian Peninsula, preventing the disappearance of possible ecotypes of interest. My main work has always been linked to the collection, conservation, classification, documentation, and evaluation of the stored ecotypes, most of which were classified as native seeds.
What are your opinions regarding the Fleurs Locales project?
I think it has some very interesting lines of work in the visibility and valorisation of genetic resources such as native seeds, which have traditionally been omitted from the value chain due to ignorance or a lack of commercial and institutional interest.
Do you think native seeds are a good option for restoration?
Of course, they can be a good option if the choice of these species is made according to the restoration objectives and the successional process itself, and as long as it is guaranteed that the environment where they will be used is similar to that of the area where the native seeds originated. I am not only talking about sharing a biogeographical region, which is taken for granted, but also about sharing edaphic characteristics and a management model that allows the perpetuation of the species in the affected area.
Since the beginning of the year, CICYTEX, for which I work, has been collaborating with the Fleurs Locales Project through a technical assistance contract with the Fundación Global Nature to develop a methodology for translocating native seeds, all with the aim of regenerating vegetation cover in meadows through the use of haybales. It is an ambitious and innovative experience that is not without its difficulties, and which puts the great team that we form together with Laura, Ana, and Álvaro to the test every day.
What is the key to making this a real option for farmers and administrations?
Unfortunately, the current availability of native seeds is very limited in terms of the diversity of species and volume available, which is logically a handicap for the development of the market, as it is not always possible to offer the product that the user really needs.
I believe that legal mechanisms adapted to the context of native seeds are necessary, which ought to be sufficiently agile and at the same time strict in the control of the production process. This would allow for a product with a guaranteed composition to be put on the market, adapted to the needs of the buyer. I believe that the final objective should not be reduced to certification or merely the use of native seeds, but that these seeds should fulfil their restorative function. Perhaps in this sense it would be necessary to generate more knowledge related to plant structure and composition in restoration processes.
Do you know of successful cases of restoration using native seeds?
The closest case I know of is a project in which I participated which involved the design of a biodiverse mixture for the improvement of a vegetation cover in a meadow. The materials used in this mixture came from native seeds from the Germplasm Bank of La Orden, so they were identified and extensively classified. This allowed the cover crop to have a higher level of production and quality than other commercial mixtures with which they were compared, and which included commercial seed of Australian origin.
* Valentín Maya Blanco, agricultural engineer, researcher at CICYTEX (Centre for Scientific and Technological Research of Extremadura), has worked for 17 years in the preservation of Plant Genetic Resources, and is responsible for the maintenance of the Germplasm Bank of Meadow Legumes at the Finca La Orden-Valdesequera Agricultural Research Institute.