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Development of Predictive Tool of Germination Requirements for MSB Collections

With the very wide range of species’ seeds being conserved in the Millennium Seed Bank, from diverse habitats, there is an ever-increasing need to provide the best possible decision support for the process of germination testing, so that this is both effective and efficient. The decisions to be made are around optimum dormancy breaking treatments, if required, and optimal germination conditions for particular species or collections.

Until recently the germination testing conditions applied in routine testing were based heavily on taxonomy, especially family, which has turned out to be a much less effective predictor of germination requirements as our collection has become more diverse. We now need to bring in to the prediction and decision making process the full range of available information, especially climatic. While we have done this synthesis ad hoc in the past, we are now beginning to do it in a systematic way, with the aim of developing a formal decision support tool, primarily for MSBP purposes, but which will also be made available to users worldwide, via the web.

We intend that users would be able to input both taxon (name-related) and collection (e.g. date, location etc) information for a seed accession; and that the system would output the most likely successful germination treatment. The tool will be based on: data-mining and analysis of our now extensive experience of germinating existing collections (Seed Bank Database); analyses of compilations of the published literature; modelling based on those analyses and current germination and dormancy theory; and collection location data will be used extensively in GIS to derive local climate information. The system will be continuously up-dated, as new information becomes available.

A significant element of the project concerned specifically with the seed germination requirements of UK native species has been externally funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and the Sfumato Foundation; and the product is now available online and is now regarded as distinct from the worldwide project.

Project partners and collaborators

AustraliaMSBP Tasmania

Project funders


Esmee Fairbairn Foundation

Sfumato Foundation