Washington State University scientists say vandals who ransacked an agricultural lab may have set some research work back at least 10 years.
Several sacks of seeds from research crops at the Agronomy Seed House were ripped open last week. Many of the seeds were mixed together or strewn about the building, rendering them useless.
Researchers were checking to see if they have back-up stocks of the seeds that were destroyed.
If back-up stock does not exist, the lost seeds will represent more than 10 years worth of research efforts to develop new wheat varieties, said Kay Simmons, a research leader for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service.
“We are quite concerned that we may have lost some important seed lines,” Simmons said. “At this point we are not quite sure how serious it is.”
Campus police have interviewed a 10-year-old boy and a 12-year-old boy believed to have broken into the lab. The boys were released pending possible charges from Whitman County prosecutors.
The building houses wheat and barley researchers for the Department of Agriculture and WSU as well as the Washington State Crop Improvement Association.
The vandals took tools used in crossing plant varieties, and fire extinguishers were emptied throughout the building.