Seed collections arrive by courier from partner organisations across the world and are immediately unpacked in a clean area.
Unpacking seeds and checking the paperwork
To safeguard against the possible escape of live insects, the unpacking area situated in a closed laboratory. If any insects are found the seed-lot is dried for one week in sealed cloth bags before freezing at -20°C for two weeks, to kill the insects.
Collections are checked for signs of damage (for instance damage caused by insects) and to assess whether immediate cleaning is required, as with wet fruits.
The Seed Information Database is used to determine likely storage characteristics and those that might pose storage problems are removed from the batch for drying tests. The majority of collections are placed in the dry room immediately, provided they are in sealed cloth or non-waxy paper bags.
Seeds arriving in waterproof plastic or foil packaging are repacked prior to drying. Herbarium specimens that accompany the seed material are also dealt with at this stage.
The Seed Conservation Department holds a special licence from the UK's plant health authorities to import and hold seeds and fruits that are controlled by law. Such collections are isolated and processed / banked according to special operating procedures agreed with the authorities.