The founder of the closure-threatened Irish Seed Savers Association has said its work is "too important for it not to be saved".

The project, based at Scarriff in Co Clare, protects and conserves heritage fruit and vegetable varieties from Ireland and around the world.

Its collections include around 800 heirloom vegetable varieties, 48 heirloom grain varieties, 140 native apple varieties and an heirloom potato collection.

But towards the end of 2013 it issued an urgent appeal on its website for donations "to ensure the survival of the organisation".

It needs to raise €250,000 to replace the government funds it has lost in recent years, saying "despite our best efforts we continue to operate at an unsustainable level financially."

Anita Hayes founded the association in 1991.

"Since then there have been masses of food security issues," she said.

"Food security is becoming the issue of the present and definitely the issue of the future.

“We have 800 varieties of non-commercially available vegetables here, as well as all the fruit varieties. These are treasures for our country. I can't imagine this not being saved."