Seed Conservation Techniques

Equipping seed conservation researchers with the knowledge and understanding needed to collect, conserve and manage high quality, ex-situ collections of wild plant seeds.

Researcher in lab coat holding tube of seeds

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.

Using the Partnership’s agreed Seed Conservation Standards as a basis, this two-week course will provide participants with training in collecting, processing, drying, storage, moisture content assessment and germination testing of seeds of wild species.

It will include a theoretical background of seed moisture relations, seed storage behaviour, germination and dormancy, prediction of seed storage life, and theoretical and practical aspects of seed bank management and design.

The programme includes an introduction to the MSBP’s role within Kew’s Science Strategy and technology work and an overview of our research programme.

There will also be opportunities to discuss actual and potential uses of seed collections in ecological restoration, livelihoods projects and seed research.

At the end of the course 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 involved in different aspects of seed conservation, therefore there are no minimum academic requirements for the course, although owing to course content, 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. 

As the course is being delivered online, a reliable internet connection and basic IT skills are required for participation. Training on the use of the online training platform will be provided.

How is the course taught? 

The course will take place as a series of online sessions between the 18th and 29th of September. Live sessions will be half days between 12pm and 3pm UK time and availability during these hours is required. Individual work, recorded content and exercises are likely to require about two additional hours per day. In the weeks before the course, training on how to use and access the content will be provided. The additional content will be made available in a dedicated Microsoft Teams Education Group with pre-recorded training modules in a designated mediaspace in the two weeks before the start and after course completion.

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

  • Seed banking as a conservation tool
  • Seed–air moisture relations
  • Seed storage behaviour
  • Writing for reports and funding applications
  • Seed viability
  • Seed development and maturity
  • Field data forms and Fieldwork apps
  • Species targeting
  • Planning a seed collecting programme
  • Sampling genetic diversity
  • Planning a seed collection mission
  • Assessing and collecting techniques
  • Making quality collections – fieldwork
  • Post-harvest handling
  • Measuring seed moisture content
  • Germination and dormancy
  • Seed processing and quality assessment
  • Shipping Seed Collections
  • Drying seeds for long-term conservation 
  • Seed storage containers and banking
  • Seed bank design and management
  • Managing seed accession data
  • Current research and innovative approaches for plant cryopreservation
  • Uses of seed collections

How to apply for a place

We are inviting applications for the 2023 course before the deadline of end of June. If there are more applicants than available places priority will be to candidates from MSBP partners and individuals directly involved in seed conservation. Candidates will be informed in July.

Register your interest by emailing Hanna Oldfield, Training Coordinator at

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  • 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.