Seed Banks and Gene Banks

Abstract

The doomsday seed vault buried deep in the side of a frozen mountain‐side on the Island of Svalbard situated within the Arctic Circle has come to encapsulate the global imperative of conserving the biodiversity relating to the world's major food crops against the growing challenges resulting from rising human population, lost of agricultural land and climate change. Extending seed longevity in seed and gene banks is regarded as complementary to conserving plant genotypes in situ in their natural environment. Elucidating the basis and variation in seed physiology with respect to seed storage as well as other in vitro storage techniques such as cryopreservation are essential to success in this mission and in enabling ready access to these resources for future generations.

Key Concepts:

  • Crop wild relatives are wild plant taxa that are closely related to a crop such as a wild ancestor, from which it might be possible to find and transfer beneficial traits for crop improvement.

  • The classification of survival of species on the basis of the response of seeds to combinations of temperature and desiccation.

  • Genetic resources is the term that refers to any material that contains functional units of heredity.

  • Seeds with intermediate storage behaviour can tolerate moderate desiccation (8–12% moisture) but are sensitive to dry storage at temperatures at or below freezing.

  • Serotiny is an ecological adaptation whereby some plant species release their seeds in response to environmental cues such as wetting, burning or warmth rather than the time when the seed reaches maturity.

  • Seeds can be subjected to accelerated aging by storing seeds for short periods under stressed conditions of high humidity and high temperatures. This results in a fall in percentage germination that mimics the effect observed under long‐term storage.

Keywords: seed; longevity; cryopreservation; desiccation; dormancy; conservation; germplasm; biodiversity

Figure 1.

The effect of storage temperature and seed moisture content on the time in days required for wheat grains (Triticum aestivum L.) to show a 50% loss of viability. Values calculated from the viability nomograph of Roberts and Roberts .

Figure 2.

The effect of seed moisture content on the viability of jute seeds (Corchorus olitorius L.) during storage in sealed containers at 32°C. Seed samples were initially adjusted to moisture contents of 4.9% (unfilled circle), 6.7% (filled circle), 9.0% (unfilled square), 11.0% (filled square), 12.2% (unfilled triangle) and 14.3% (filled triangle). After Khandakar and Bradbeer .

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References

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Further Reading

Bewley JD and Black M (1994) Seeds: Physiology of Development and Germination, 2nd edn. New York: Plenum Press.

Bewley JD, Black M and Halmer M (2006) The Encyclopedia of Seeds: Science, Technology and Uses. Wallingford, CT: CABI Publishing.

Bradbeer JW (1988) Seed Dormancy and Germination. Glasgow: Blackie.

Dickie JB and Pritchard HW (2002) Systematic and evolutionary aspects of desiccation tolerance in seeds. In: Black M and Pritchard HW (eds) Desiccation and Survival in Plants: Drying without Dying, pp. 239–258. Wallingford, CT: CABI Publishing.

Hawkes J, Maxted N and Ford‐Lloyd BV (2000) The Ex Situ Conservation of Plant Genetic Resources, pp. 1–250. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer.

Pritchard HW (2007) Cryoperservation of desiccation‐tolerant seeds. In: Day JG and Stacey G (eds) Cryoperservation and Freeze‐drying Protocols, Methods in Molecular Biology, No. 368, 2nd edn, pp. 185–202. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press.

Probert RJ and Hay FR (2000) Keeping seeds alive. In: Black M and Bewley JD (eds) Seed Technology and Its Biological Basis, pp. 375–410. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press.

Smith RD, Dickie JB, Linington SH, Pritchard HW and Probert RJ (2003) Seed Conservation: Turning Science into Practise, pp. 1–1064. London: Kew Publishing.

Thormann I, Metz T and Engels JMM (2004) The Species Compendium (release 1.0; December) Rome: Bioversity International.

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How to Cite close
Ambrose, Michael J(Sep 2010) Seed Banks and Gene Banks. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002025.pub2]