Millennium Seed Bank

A world class facility for the long term storage and research of seeds.

Researcher wearing large protective coat, holding jar of seeds, in the vault of the Millennium Seed Bank

Situated in the Wellcome Trust Millennium building at Wakehurst, Sussex, our Millennium Seed Bank is a purpose-built facility for the long term storage and research of seeds collected from the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership. It constitutes the largest and most diverse wild plant species genetic resource in the world.

The vault, located underground, is flood, bomb, and radiation-proof, and protected by alarms and automated systems. Within the vault are deep freeze chambers to store seeds at a temperature of -20°C, using international standards.

The Millennium Seed Bank has the capacity to house 75 per cent of the world’s storable seeds and is currently home to over 2.3 billion seeds, representing over 40,000 different species. 

Research laboratories and seed preparation facilities are situated above the vault. When seeds arrive at the Millennium Seed Bank they are take to the initial drying room which is kept at 15°C with a 15 per cent relative humidity. For every one per cent that we reduce a seed’s moisture content, the life span of the seed doubles. Our initial drying phase increases seed longevity by 40 times, and seeds can stay in this room from anywhere between two weeks and six months. Seeds are subsequently cleaned before X-ray analysis to identify damaged or empty seeds, which are discarded. The main drying room operates at 18°C with a 15 per cent relative humidity and removes all moisture from the seeds before they are stored.

The Wellcome Trust Millennium building is an energy efficient building, using solar panels to power the seed bank’s cold and dry rooms.