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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #370841

Research Project: Efficient and Effective Preservation and Management of Plant and Microbial Genetic Resource Collections

Location: Agricultural Genetic Resources Preservation Research

Title: The unique role of seed banking and cryobiotechnologies in plant conservation

item Walters, Christina
item PENCE, VALERIE - Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

Submitted to: Plants, People, Planet
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/20/2020
Publication Date: 8/11/2020
Citation: Walters, C.T., Pence, V. 2020. The unique role of seed banking and cryobiotechnologies in plant conservation. Plants, People, Planet. 3(1):83-91.

Interpretive Summary: This paper follows from 'A World of Plants' symposium hosted by National Geographic in October 2019. The paper gives a brief history of seed banking, an ex situ conservation practice that is increasingly used for plants. Seeds from many species offer the ideal material for gene banking because they have a natural tendency to survive for a long time. This is because they can surivive drying which turns cells in solids, much like dried foods. However, not all seeds have this capacity and not all plants produce seeds. Alternative strategies for these contingencies are discussed in terms of cryobiotechnologies. Ultimately, the success of seed banking and other cryobiotechnologies depends on how these collections are used to suit a conservation purpose, either through agricultural practices or through land restoration.

Technical Abstract: A future sustainable world requires concerted efforts to conserve plant biodiversity. Using an integrated approach, botanic gardens, arboreta, and governmental agencies are addressing that challenge. Here, we summarize some of the technological advances, in an ever-growing toolbox, that increase the scope of taxa that are conserved ex situ as well as the life spans of diverse plant tissues that can be used as germplasm. Seed banking continues to be a powerful and efficient tool. Seeds that tolerate extreme drying and low temperature will likely survive at least 100 years using conventional conditions of a common freezer. The extreme tolerance of seeds among diverse taxa has led to the global growth of seed banks to over 1750 currently, and the conservation of over 50,000 species. Not all plants produce seeds or seeds that survive freezer conditions. Predictive models provide insight into the extent of taxa needing alternative strategies and an initial list of such species is available. These ‘exceptional’ species require cryobiotechnologies (cryogenic storage in liquid nitrogen and in vitro technologies), which provide effective, long-term ex situ conservation for a wide variety of tissues beyond seeds. The application of cryobiotechnologies increases the potential for conserving all plant biodiversity. Restoration of plant biodiversity into the future will require institutional collaborations among living collections, seed banks and cryobanks to ensure technology transfer, information gathering and sharing, and capacity building in centers of biodiversity.