Caring for seed collections
Seed collections must be handled carefully to maintain quality and the potential for long-term storage.
A Pedaliodiscus macrocarpus collection split into fully ripe and immature fruits (Image: Vanessa Bertenshaw, RBG Kew)
Seed collections can be harmed by poor handling in the field, and it is particularly important that seed does not experience high temperature and humidity.
Collectors check the condition of seed and herbarium specimens each day. Some teams carry portable relative humidity meters to guide the handling of seed collections. If necessary, the seed is spread onto tarpaulins in a shady, well-ventilated environment to assist drying and maintain viability of the seed.
Seeds within fleshy fruits are usually extracted within one or two days of collecting to reduce the risk of mould damaging the seed collection. Portable driers are sometimes used to enable rapid drying of herbarium specimens.
In general, most seed collecting expeditions last a maximum of two weeks, so that the often large number of collections can be returned to base in good condition and handed over to seed bank personnel for conservation.
If seed collections contain a significant proportion of seeds that are not fully mature, post-harvest ripening methods are used to improve seed storage potential.
More information on post-harvest handling.