The International Seed Society’s Second Seed Longevity Workshop

The USDA Agricultural Research Service’s National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation hosted the International Society for Seed Science’s (ISSS) Second Seed Longevity Workshop at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, on July 20 – August 1, 2018.  About 100 participants from 22 countries attended.  ISSS aims to foster and promote research, education and communication in the scientific understanding of seeds.  The workshop is held to discuss current findings and propose new directions for future research on seed longevity. Papers from the meeting will be available later in a Special Issue of Seed Science Research “Seeds, Conservation and Biodiversity”.

 Themes of the Workshop were:

1.       Genetic architecture and molecular dissection of longevity.

2.       From seed banking to landscape restoration

3.       Germplasm integrity during storage

4.       Seed quality for conservation

5.       Seed traits and biodiversity conservation

 Annette Miller explaining curation of seed collections at the NLGRP

Annette Miller explaining curation of seed collections at the NLGRP

Although much of the Workshop focused on crop species, there was also a major emphasis on native species, with discussions of native seed longevity relative to seed bank research to improve our understanding of native systems, aid managers, identify disturbances capable of recovering naturally and those requiring active intervention, selection of species for restoration and ex situ and in situ conservation protocols.

A tour through the NCGRP on the last day included visits to the seed storage areas, which house about 1 million accessions of crop species, crop wild relatives and native wild species. About 54 thousand accessions are cryogenically stored at -196oC and the rest are keep in the cold vault at -18oC.  We learned how seed lots are accessioned and how storage methods are selected for each species.  We also visited researchers developing protocols for cold storage of vegetative material, and learned about equipment and techniques used in seed longevity research and the management of research data. Preservation protocols used at the lab have been developed over the last 50 years and are shared with other researchers and seed storage facilities around the world. Collections are monitored to indicate when regeneration or re-collecting is required.

 Cryopreservation section at the NLGRP.

Cryopreservation section at the NLGRP.

The NLGRP has partnered with the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies to curate the Seeds of Success National Collection, which now consists of about 16,000 accessions of native species of the United States. Initial germination data and viability testing of these collections over time will contribute to improved management of native seed collections for short-term restoration use and longer-term storage for conservation.