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The aim is to collect seed of all flowering plants of the New Zealand flora, assuming the seed can be banked, but four target species groups have been identified – these are seed of the Myrtaceae, alpine flora in partciullar the forget-me-nots, kowhai along with other Fabaceae and Podocarps and other trees of the forest.
Species to be collected in this project include both threatened and common species. Many threatened species have issues relating to their conservation, but as we do not know what threats any species may face in the future, banking seed of all species is a good insurance policy. The collecting programme will be focussed around four target species projects.
The group includes kanuka, manuka, a number of endangered species, and the more common pohutukawa and rata.
There are many threatened species of alpine flora. Relatively little is known about their seed biology and behaviour.
The Fabaceae family is significant to this project, as 22 of the 36 species are threatened or at risk.
As part of the collaboration between the New Zealand Indigenous Flora Seed Bank and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Massey staff member and NZIFN coordinator Jessica Schnell spent time working in the Millennium Seed Bank in the UK.
The aim is for Jessica to expand her curation and seed processing skills as well as experiencing seed collecting in the UK. Jessica has been following the banking process from arrival of the seed through to it being placed in the seed bank at -20°C.
The first job when the seed arrives at the seed bank is for the seed to be cleaned. The process begins with the seed being allocated a serial number. The next step is to assess if the collection is infested. For seed found to be infested, the relative humidity of the seed is tested and if it is found to be dry enough not be damaged by freezing it, then the seed is placed at -20°C for 1 week. Seed not infested goes straight into the drying room to bring down the moisture content of the seed to the low levels needed to maximise the seed storage life.
Treated seed can also be a potential hazard. Treated seed is handled in the dust-hood with heavy duty gloves. Cleaning is done by hand or with blowers rather than by machine to minimise damage during the cleaning process – damage that may reduce the seed storage life.
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Last updated on Tuesday 16 August 2016