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Improving the Identification, Handling and Storage of ‘Difficult’ Seeds

Certain crop species may present difficulties in their conservation and use due to recalcitrant storage behaviour, inappropriate handling and/or dormancy issues. The project purpose was to improve identification, handling, storage and use of such species. Although aimed primarily at gene banks, the project is also relevant to community seed banks, and others aiming to maintain seed quality during storage.
Participants at a 'Difficult' Seeds Project workshop in Burkina Faso, 2007 (Image: RBG Kew)

Focusing on Africa, the 'Difficult' Seeds project worked with crop genebanks to improve the identification, handling, storage and use of ‘difficult’ seeds - so-called because they cannot be readily conserved and/or easily used. Difficulties were related to recalcitrant storage behavior, dormancy problems, or inappropriate handling.

Funded by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and delivered by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), the project addressed the need to build capacity to conserve plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.

Stakeholder workshops held in 2006 identified a list of around 220 ‘difficult’ species, and produced guidelines for future project activities.

Four training workshops were held in 2007-8, in Kenya, Burkina Faso, Botswana, and Morocco, benefitting 60 participants from 48 institutes in 38 countries. The workshops included a 2-day mini-workshop for local farmers and community representatives, with the aim of supporting and facilitating gene banks to engage with farmers. Eighty farmers from the four host countries attended these workshops. The training workshops were highly successful and received positive feedback from participants.

The ‘Difficult’ Seeds Project website draws together key information on the seed biology of 160 ‘difficult’ species, most of them food plants. The training resources developed by the project are also available, together with resources and information for farmers and community seed projects. It is hoped to make the training resources available in French.

Project partners and collaborators


Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations

Project funders



Annex material

Conferences and workshops


Scientific Symposium on Biodiversity and Sustainable Diets, Rome, Italy, Nov 2010

Project Department

Project Leader: