Saving seeds for the future

Our scientists visit the Millenium Seed Bank

News from Forest Research: July 2011

Richard Jinks (Forest Research), Paul Smith (MSB) and Steve Lee (Forest Research)

Seeds contain the genetic blueprints for plants and trees. Storing them allows us to preserve threatened species or examples of rare adaptation in the wild. This April, Forest Research scientists Steve Lee and Richard Jinks visited the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex, which is operated by the Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG) Kew. Their guide around the facility was Paul Smith, Head of MSB, who explained that currently 10% of the world’s flora are stored at the Bank, with plans to expand this to 25% over the next ten years.

MSB focuses on ultra-long-term storage (ULTS) of seeds and many of the principles employed at Wakehurst could be used to improve medium-term storage and seed viability at Forest Research. MSB’s top seed storage expert, Keith Manger, has recently visited our Northern Research Station near Edinburgh and was able to suggest a number of quick and cheap changes to our systems that will improve the storage and long-term viability of our selected conifer seed.

Both Forest Research and Kew receive funding from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and as such are keen to work together to ensure efficiency, mutual cooperation and value for money. This is supported by the formal Memorandum of Collaboration between the Forestry Commission and RBG Kew.

We are now developing plans to transfer rare native Scots pine seed from our own storage facilities to the ULTS facilities at MSB.

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This and other news stories can be found in the Summer 2011 issue of FR News, our online newsletter.