Last week I visited the Millennium Seed Bank, part of Kew Royal Botanic Gardens located at Wakehurst Place in Ardingly, West Sussex, about one hour south of central London by train. Kew's Millennium Seed Bank partnership aims to collect and preserve seed from all of over the world, with a special focus on at-risk species and those most useful for the future. I was particularly interested in their program "Adapting Agriculture for Climate Change" which focuses on collecting and preserving seed from globally important crops and their wild relatives. Many thanks to Ruth Eastwood and Colin Khoury for sharing information via email and phone about this incredible facility. I am especially grateful to Danielle Haddad for taking the time to show me around the Seed Bank. Danielle provided an extremely informative and delightful tour of the Millennium Seed Bank. I learned so much and thoroughly enjoyed the tour.
The Millennium Seed Bank has developed detailed protocols for the collection of seed from wild populations. It includes facilities for the receipt, drying, processing, and testing of seeds via x-ray. Once seeds have reached the appropriate humidity level, they are placed into small glass jars, which are then placed in larger glass jars, and those are stored in huge walk-in freezers. Metadata describing the locality of origin, date of collection, taxonomic identity, and other criticial information are associated with each sample and stored in the database. In addition, the Millennium Seed Bank has greenhouses for growing seeds and testing viability. At the time of my visit, it was estimated that the Millennium Seed Bank houses nearly 2 billion seeds representing about 15% of the known plant species on the planet. Wow!
Miller Lab members