The U.S. Department of Agriculture is investing in seed research and preservation to ensure future diversity in agriculture.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, speaking at a Colorado State University lab, said the effort is directly linked to food security.

“A substantial number of seed samples and germplasm collected here allows us to ensure that we will always have the great diversity,” Vilsack said in prepared remarks.

“And it enables and empowers folks at Colorado State University and throughout the U.S. to do the necessary research that will allow us to continue to focus on productivity and protection of crops, which in turn allows us to be a food secure nation.”

The USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Md., also is a key player in the effort, according to a news release from the USDA.

Richard Olsen, spokesman for the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, said in the release that seed preservation is a safeguard to unknown pests and disease and other environmental stresses that may develop in the future. One current effort is preserving varieties of ash trees threatened by the Emerald ash borer, scientists said.

“We have the science, we have the ability, we have the understanding to conserve this species through seed storage,” Kevin Conrad, spokesman USDA Agricultural Research Service, said in the release.