'Difficult' Seeds Project
The ‘Difficult’ Seeds Project is helping seed banks and farmers to conserve plants used for food and agriculture in Africa.
Training workshop in Kenya (Image: RBG Kew)
Improving the identification, handling, storage and use of 'difficult' seeds
Kew and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) are working to improve the identification, handling, storage and use of seeds which are difficult to conserve and/or use. The ‘Difficult’ Seeds Project is funded by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
The easier it is to grow plants from stored seeds, the more useful the seed bank collection. However not all plant species are suitable for conservation in seed banks since they have seeds that are damaged by the drying and freezing process. Others may be easy to conserve but difficult to grow because they require very specific germination conditions or dormancy-breaking treatments. This particularly affects crop wild relatives and so-called under-utilised species. In other cases, the collections are of little use because poor collection, handling or storage practices have damaged the seeds.
In 2006, the aims of the project were established at stakeholder workshops and a list of 220 species with ‘difficult’ seeds was identified by the team with the help of seed bank staff from 29 African countries.
Guidelines were produced for future project activities, including:
- providing training in techniques and methods for handling ‘difficult’ seeds
- making scientific and technical information available
- helping to acquire basic technical equipment
- supporting and facilitating gene banks to work with local farmers
In 2007-08, training workshops were held in Kenya, Burkina Faso, Botswana, and Morocco, benefiting 60 participants from 48 institutes in 38 countries. In addition, 80 farmers from the four host countries attended associated farmers workshops.
The ‘Difficult’ Seeds Project website contains 160 species profile pages to overcome any difficulties in the handling and storage of their seeds. We've also included training resources that can be used by gene banks in running training courses amongst staff, and with farmers and community seed groups.
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