Who’s involved with seeds?

Modern, high-tech seed banks, for the ex situ conservation of wild plant species, have been built in many countries around the world in recent years. Consequently there is a fast growing global network of people involved in seed banking and related subjects, including people and organisations with research, conservation and/or industry backgrounds.

Several international organisations now exist dedicated to the seed banking and seed science that goes on in seed banks, botanic gardens, universities and other research establishments.

The International Seed Testing Association

The International Seed Testing Association [external link] (ISTA) was founded in 1924 with the aim of creating global uniformity in seed testing. ISTA has member laboratories in over 70 different countries and works to:

  • produce internationally agreed rules for seed sampling and testing;
  • accredit laboratories;
  • promote seed research;
  • provide international seed analysis certificates;
  • provide training and dissemination of knowledge in seed science and technology to facilitate seed trading.

The International Society for Seed Science

The International Society for Seed Science [external link] (ISSS) was inaugurated in 1999 for ‘the advancement of education and research for the public benefit in the scientific study of seeds’.

Benefits to ISSS members include:

  • reduced subscription to the scientific journal Seed Science Research;
  • 25% off all seed-related books published by CAB International;
  • co-ordination of and assistance in organising conferences, workshops or more specialised meetings;
  • reduced registration fee for attendance at ISSS meetings, including international workshops and conferences;
  • assistance for attendance at ISSS conferences (e.g. student grants);
  • ISSS newsletter
  • reduced price publication of proceedings of ISSS conferences and meetings.

The ISSS are also involved in political and public relations activities affecting seed research and utilisation.

The Millennium Seed Bank Project

The Seed Conservation Department of the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is home to the largest ex situ conservation project ever conceived: the Millennium Seed Bank Project [external link] (MSBP). Partners in this project, located in approx. 36 different countries worldwide, will have banked seeds from 10% of the world’s wild plant species (around 24,200 species) by the end of this decade. Plants conserved will include the rarest, most threatened and most useful species known to people.

Seed collections held in the MSB, and the knowledge scientists are deriving from them, provide almost infinite options for their conservation and use. Not only will these seeds remain alive in the MSB for decades and, in many cases, hundreds of years, but proportions of collections are already being used to provide a wide range of benefits to mankind, ranging from food and building materials in rural communities to disease-resistant crops for agriculture.

In light of predicted climate change and the ever-increasing impact of human activities, the MSBP intends to accelerate its activities to conserve the seeds of 25% of the world’s plant species by 2020.

Australian Seed Conservation and Research (AuSCaR)

Partners in the Millennium Seed Bank Project (MSBP), Kew

An Australian network for the collection, storage, research and sustainable use of seeds for native plant conservation. Formed in 2007 of Australia-based MSBP partners, AuSCaR delivers seed banking of Australian flora in conjunction with botanic gardens, conservation agencies, universities and non-government conservation organisations.

There are currently thirteen Australian institutions involved in AuSCaR, covering all six states and the Northern Territory. Each state and territory has developed programs and facilities for the collection and long term seed banking of native species.

AuSCaR prioritises the conservation of Australia’s endemic, endangered and economic species, and seeds of approximately one third of Australia’s unique flora (over 8,000 species) will be collected and stored by the end of 2009, supporting the achievement of Target 8 of the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation (2002).

Collaborative research at both national and international level between MSBP partners is improving our understanding of Australian native seed biology. Major research areas include seed germination and dormancy, seed longevity and biotechnologies for the conservation of recalcitrant seeds. In addition, data regarding species population size and range, obtained during seed collecting, will enable predicted climate change impacts to be assessed.

Seed science published

National and international scientific journals that publish peer-reviewed seed science include:

The Australian Journal of Botany

Seed Science Research

Seed Science and Technology

Annals of Botany