Seed collections are sent back to a seed bank as quickly as possible, so that they can be dried and processed.
Processed seed collections from an expedition in Mali, ready for shipping (Image: RBG Kew)
For most seeds, it is crucial that they are sent to a seed bank within a few days of harvesting, together with the completed field data. This will minimise any deterioration of the seed due to aging, and allow seed bank staff to check the ripeness of the collection and prepare it for drying and processing.
Accurate and careful labelling of the collection and good packing are essential, especially where seed collections are transferred to the seed bank by post or air freight. Collections of fleshy fruited species or containing moist or under-ripe seeds require careful handling before they can be safely shipped.
Seed from the UK and some US collectors is sent directly to Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank (MSB) for cleaning, processing and banking. However the majority of MSB Project partners now have the capacity to clean and process seeds.
In these cases, Kew’s MSB receives only duplicate collections sent periodically from the partner seed bank facility.
Additional material from the collection such as photographs and plant specimens are sent to the MSB, quoting the unique collection number given in the field.