Plant cryopreservation – theory and practice

Equipping researchers with the knowledge and understanding needed to consider and apply different cryopreservation approaches for the ex situ conservation of plants.

Researchers using some cryogenics laboratory equipment

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) is the largest ex-situ plant conservation network in the world, focusing on the conservation and use of wild plant species faced with the threat of extinction and those of greatest importance for the future.

Our Millennium Seed Bank provides training, technical support and information, to ensure that MSBP partners and collaborators have the skills, facilities and knowledge needed to successfully conserve seeds to a high standard and meet critical global seed conservation targets.

Our training courses aim to combine our partners’ knowledge of their native floras with the seed conservation skills gained over 40 years by RBG Kew.

For plants that cannot be conserved by conventional seed banking, cryopreservation offers an alternative approach and this course for the first time brings together different techniques and approaches to provide partners and other interested researchers an opportunity to learn about them. The course is being delivered as part of the Global Tree Seed Bank Programme, which is funded by the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Successful trainees will be awarded a Seed Conservation Techniques course certificate on attending the complete course.

Who is the course designed for? 

The course is aimed at scientists interested in applying cryopreservation techniques to achieve conservation outcomes for plant species.

While there are no formal minimum academic requirements for the course, participants should be comfortable interpreting graphs, reading scientific papers and performing basic calculations. 

The course will be delivered in English; therefore participants should be able to understand spoken and written technical English and be able to give presentations in English. 

How is the course taught? 

The course will take place at the Millennium Seed Bank in Wakehurst, Ardingly. Arrivals will be on Monday 30th of October. Discounted bedrooms are available onsite and have access to kitchen facilities. Travel to and from Wakehurst must be organized and funded by training participants. 

Lecture and practical sessions are from 9am to 5pm every day with regular breaks. There are no sessions scheduled on the weekend.

One course day will be spent at Kew, London with joint travel organized and funded by the course.

There will be a farewell dinner on the Wednesday 8th November and departures on Thursday 9th November.

Participants can expect to cover the following topics (subject to staff availability):

  • Ex situ conservation using cryobiotechnology
  • Cryopreservation case studies
  • Seed collecting for cryopreservation
  • Short lived orthodox and intermediate seed processing
  • Embryonic axis cryopreservation: theory and practical
  • Shoot tip cryopreservation theory and practical
  • Somatic embryo introduction
  • Fern and bryophyte cryopreservation
  • Developing protocols for cryopreservation
  • Cryoprotectants theory and practical
  • Alginate encapsulation
  • Cryobank management


How to apply for a place

We are inviting applications for the 2023 course before the deadline of end of August. If there are more applicants than available places priority will be to candidates from partners of the Millennium Seed Bank Parntnership and individuals directly involved in applying the techniques. Candidates will be informed in September.

Register your interest by emailing Hanna Oldfield, Training Coordinator at

  • Stored seeds at the seed bank in the freezer

    Banking the World's Seeds

    The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership safeguards wild plant diversity and enables its sustainable utilisation through global partnership.

  • Kew scientist in coat holding jar of seeds

    Millennium Seed Bank

    The world’s largest underground seed bank and conservation resource for diverse wild plant species.