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Recording data about seeds

Data for each Millennium Seed Bank Partnership collection is held in the Seed Bank Database.

Photo of a scientists at the Millennium Seed Bank

Logging data into the Seed Bank Database

Data in the Seed Bank Database (SBD) is organised into four main sections: 

1. Donation and Collection data

Seed banks can hold viable seeds for many decades so it is essential that collection data is meaningful to scientists in the future. To this end, Geographical Positioning System (GPS) data is used to pinpoint the geographical location of the collection site. Such accurately-recorded locations can also be used in a Geographical Information System (GIS), allowing linkage to climatic and other data.

The following data is recorded:

  • Material Agreements - details the Access and Benefit Sharing Agreement (ABSA) or other legal agreement under which the collection/s have been made
  • Donor and Collectors names
  • Distribution Policy - records what restrictions may apply to the distribution of the seeds from the MSB
  • Geographical Data - includes country, province, specific location, latitude, longitude and altitude
  • Environmental Data - includes habitat type and associated species
  • Site Notes - notes on landform, aspect, geology and soil
  • Plant Name - identification by the collector, followed by any further verification details and plant descriptions
  • Sampling Data - number of plants sampled / found in the population and the approximate area sampled

Information on the plant's identification is also included. This is important as it links the collection to everything else that is recorded in the scientific literature about the species. Identifying this wild material is equivalent to the process of 'characterisation' for crop genetic resource collections. All plant names are checked against a live version of the APG III system (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group III system) of flowering plant classification and, as an added precaution, against lists of species scheduled as having UK quarantine status or protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Accuracy of data entry is important at this point and particularly with respect to collectors' names, the plant names assigned in the field and field collection numbers. Subsequent identification of a specific seed collection among the MSBP partners relies on this information. A six-digit serial number (plus check digit) will be given for the identification of every seed-lot arriving for storage at the MSB.

2. Processing data

A record of the results of procedures carried out on the seed collection once it has arrived at the Millennium Seed Bank. The process is sequential so the progress of a collection through the system can be tracked.

3. Seed distribution data

Most seed collections that are held in the MSB are covered by Access and Benefit Sharing Agreements with the countries of origin. Seed samples can be made available to third parties for bona fide research under a Material Supply Agreement, and transactions are tracked on the SBD.

4. Taxon data

This includes accepted names for species and their synonyms, conservation ratings and inclusion within plant health and CITES legislation.

Seed Bank Database

Our Seed Bank Database (SBD) is constantly evolving to better assist in collection management, to meet the needs of research and conservation programmes and to ease data exchange across Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank Partnership.

Statistics from the SBD allow progress towards MSBP collecting targets to be monitored and are useful when planning future collecting expeditions. Seed viability monitoring data is used to make decisions about whether to recollect or regenerate a collection if viability has dropped to 85% of initial seed viability.

The seed collection data is not available publicly, but information on seed characteristics such as seed germination requirements is available online through the Seed Information Database.