15 October 2018
Banking the world’s seeds
The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership safeguards wild plant diversity and enables its sustainable utilisation through global partnership.
Kew’s global seed banking network, the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP), is the largest ex situ plant conservation programme in the world.
Our focus is on plant life faced with the threat of extinction and plants of most use for the future. The State of the World's Plants Report highlighted that 21% of global plant species are threatened with extinction. The seeds we save are conserved in seed banks as an insurance against the risk of extinction in their native habitat.
Working with our network of partners across 100 countries and overseas territories, we have successfully banked over 15% of the world's wild plant species. Collections are preserved at the Wellcome Trust Millennium Building at Wakehurst Place and around the world in our partner seed banks. The collections and the vital associated knowledge enable innovation, adaptation and resilience in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and habitat restoration. The published MSBP Seed Conservation Standards provide a basis for technology transfer amongst partners and help to assure users of the quality of the seed collections.
One of the strategic outputs from the Kew Science Strategy (2015-2020), Banking the World's Seeds prioritises plants and regions most at risk from the impact of human activities, including from land use and climate change.
Through the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, we aim to achieve the following:
• Bank 25% of the world’s plant species; this equates to approximately 75,000 species.
• Strengthen the seed collections of the UK flora, with a focus on multi-provenance collections of woody species via the UK National Tree Seed Project.
• Continue our research into the different strategies needed to sample genetic diversity, and conserve seeds that cannot withstand desiccation and freezing.
• Continue to expand the network of countries and partners, working under common seed conservation standards to achieve increased focus on collection quality and genetic diversity of collections.
Examples of major programmes of work that contribute to this objective are
• Collect and conserve seed from more than 350 species of Crop Wild Relative, facilitating their use in breeding new and improved crops better adapted to climate change. Link to ‘Adapting agriculture to climate change’ project
• conserve 3,000 of the rarest, most threatened and useful trees and woody shrubs, and to undertake several research programmes to improve our knowledge of tree conservation. link to ‘Global tree seed project’
The targets of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership help to achieve Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, one of the Cross-Cutting Issues of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Adapting agriculture to climate change
Global tree seed project
Conserving seed from the rare and endangered flora of the USA
Saving the endangered and endemic plants of Baja California, Mexico (Phase 2)
Science-based conservation of tree species in Mexico
Conserving Thailand’s crop wild relatives through ex situ conservation and use
Bunchy top virus mitigation: screening wild bananas for resistance
Banking the flora of Kyrgyzstan
1000 Species project
Saving the flora of the Caucasus
Alpine seed conservation and research network
Conserving the endemic flora of the Carpathian region
National Seed Conservation programmes
Conserving the genetic diversity of St Helena's threatened endemic flora
Seeds are available for distribution to bona fide users, view the MSB Seed List. There are also a number of different MSBP resources for use by our partners and other parties including:
- Seed bank data exchange
- Technical information sheets
- Seed conservation standards
- Field manuals
See our MSB Partnership Data Warehouse Resources page to view what is available.
The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership newsletter, Samara, is published twice annually. It contains interesting stories and experiences from our partners across the globe. Read the latest issues of Issues of Samara.