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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research » Research » Research Project #442499

Research Project: RNA Integrity as a Powerful Metric of Aging in Preserved Seed Collections of Wild Rare Plant Species

Location: Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research

Project Number: 3012-21000-017-012-T
Project Type: Trust Fund Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 1, 2022
End Date: Jul 31, 2027

To ensure better stewardship of rare plants in seed collections, CPC, in partnership with its network of botanic gardens and the National Laboratory for Genetic Resource Preservation (NLGRP), proposes to test early or non-invasive biological markers of aging and longevity in seeds from wild rare plant species. Recent research shows that RNA integrity (RIN), as well as other biochemical indicators, reliably measure seed aging and predict seed longevity in a variety of agronomic species. We propose to test the applicability of these tests on seeds from wild rare plant species.

In part 1 of the proposed experiments, we will compare standard methods of detecting deterioration (i.e., lost germination potential) with a panel of newly-available measurements (such as RIN, , crystallization tendency of triacylglycerols (TAGc), and darkening of seed color) for freshly collected seeds and CPC accessions that have been stored for 15 years or more. In part 2, we will make similar comparisons in a subset of fresh seeds that are subjected to a simulated aging treatment of dry heat. This will enable us to correlate speed that biochemical parameters change with (e.g., RINslope) speed that germination changes (1/P50, with P50 = seed half-life). In part 3 of this study, we will analyze aging rates of seeds from part 1, with phylogeny, habitat, climate, and plant traits with the goal of informing species conservation plans for the thousands of rare plant species not included in this study. We will communicate our results and data publicly through peer-reviewed publications and through CPC’s multi-media Best Practice Guidelines on an IMLS-funded communications platform for rare plant curation methods. We will discuss our project progress and the implications of our results for curation practices with the country’s top conservation seed banking professionals at CPC National Meetings.