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Title: Genebanking seeds from natural populations

item Walters, Christina

Submitted to: Natural Areas Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/1/2014
Publication Date: 1/1/2015
Citation: Walters, C.T. 2015. Genebanking seeds from natural populations. Natural Areas Journal. 35(1):98-105. DOI: 10.3375/043.035.0114.

Interpretive Summary: Currently there is tremendous focus on genebanking seeds from wild populations for research, conservation and crop improvement. These initiatives rely on successful genebanking methods developed for seeds from crop plants and apply the same methods to a much broader range of species which show diverse responses to storage conditions. Wild collected seed are more costly to collect and behave more heterogeneously during germination and storage, making them harder to manage. There is also greater risk of genetic erosion in wild collected seed, because the populations are genetically diverse. Yet regenerating wild seed is extremely difficult because knowledge about growth requirements and reproductive biology is limited. Some species age rapidly for unknown reasons and some are damaged by conventional freezer storage, necessitating cryogenic storage. More care and better technologies are required to successfully genebank wild-collected seeds. A case study of sagebrush seed storage is presented to illustrate these points.

Technical Abstract: Conventional storage protocols have been developed to preserve genetic diversity of seeds of crops in genebanks. These same principles have been applied to preserve seeds from wild populations. While most principles for conventional storage protocols are applicable to a broad range of wild species, seeds from wild populations are not amenable to some practices that assume high uniformity within the seed lot. Small sample sizes and high heterogeneity of seeds from wild populations demand greater a priori knowledge of characteristic longevity as well as new tools to monitor viability without germinating seeds. Some of the challenges handling seeds from undomesticated plants are exemplified from an experiment with sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) seeds. Sagebrush seeds deteriorate very quickly at high humidity and moderately fast at room temperature. Rapid drying of seeds and immediate placement in the freezer might boost longevity. As with seeds from most wild species, there is insufficient knowledge of sagebrush seed storage traits to guide viability monitoring in the genebank.