Scientists at Kew engage in a range of activities to enable seeds and plants to be stored for long periods of time for conservation purposes.
Keith Manger in the Cryopreservation room at Kew's Millenium Seed Bank
The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership has mainly focused on the storage of ‘orthodox’ seed that can be dried and then frozen. For seeds which cannot withstand the drying process cryobiological studies (a process of freezing living plant material in liquid nitrogen at the temperature of -196 C) are carried out; the development and transfer of cryobiological conservation methodologies is a component of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation.
In December 2006 COST ACTION 871 started. The aim of this four year project was to create a network that brings together European scientists with an expertise and/or interest in plant cryopreservation for the development of efficient cryopreservation procedures. List of participating countries
Emphasis was be placed on using cryopreservation for the conservation of crops that are vegetatively propagated (plants that are not produced from seed). Also on the agenda was non-orthodox seeds (which will not survive the drying and freezing processes used in seed bank storage facilities), with a focus on under-utilised crop species and their wild relatives.
The above project has now finished. Please see the page about Cryo-conservation Centres of Excellence in Kew's Science Directory to find out about our latest work on this subject.
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