Wes Jackson, Founder and President of The Land Institute, visits Saint Louis University and the Missouri Botanical Garden
Last week we were delighted to welcome Dr. Wes Jackson, Founder and President of The Land Institute, to Saint Louis University (SLU) and the Missouri Botanical Garden. Wes' visit was sponsored by the Saint Louis University Center for Sustainability. Many thanks go to the Center for Sustainability, the SLU Department of Biology and the Missouri Botanical Garden for helping to host Wes' visit!
The primary goal of The Land Institute is "to develop an agricultural system with the ecological stability of the prairie and a grain yield comparable to that from annual crops." Although almost all of our crops were domesticated thousands of years ago, herbaceous perennials are not well-represented among domesticates (see Van Tassel, DeHaan, and Cox. Missing domesticated plant forms: can artificial selection fill the gap? Evolutionary Applications 3: 434 - 452). Major ongoing research programs at The Land Institute are aimed at domesticating perennial grains and legumes for use in a perennial polyculture that mimics the natural landscape. This topic is of great interest to our lab, where for many years we have been studying evolution of perennial crops under domestication, geographic patterns of genetic variation in perennial crop wild relatives, and the genomic basis of adaptation in long-lived plant species. Consequently, we were thrilled when Wes accepted our offer to visit St. Louis, and had a great time during his visit. For an additional post detailing Wes' visit please check out Jennifer Fleischmann's post on the EarthDance web site.
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