About the New Zealand Indigenous Flora Seed Bank

The New Zealand Indigenous Flora Seed Bank(NZIFSB) is a project to collect seeds from New Zealand flora, with the aim of conserving New Zealand's biodiversity.

The project is part of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership led by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the United Kingdom.

The New Zealand Indigenous Flora Seed Bank project is led by Massey University. The seeds are collected by volunteers who are trained in appropriate collecting techniques. Once processed, seeds are banked at low moisture and temperature (-20°C) in a physical seed bank at the Margot Forde Forage Germ Plasm Centre (AgResearch).  A specimen representative of the plants the seed is collected from is also prepared and stored at the Dame Ella Campbell Herbarium at Massey University in Palmerston North.

Awards from the Strategic Innovation Fund (Massey University), the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, the George Mason Charitable Trust and MWH Limited have provided funding for staff and equipment to progress the project.

The aim of the NZIFSB is to collect the seeds of New Zealand flora as part of an ex-situ conservation strategy to conserve the biodiversity within New Zealand’s indigenous flora. Seed once banked will remain viable in the bank for decades if not longer.

As with any bank, withdrawals are possible but only for a limited range of purposes, such as for reintroduction of species where populations have been lost in the wild and, more rarely, for research projects that will help with ex situ or in situ conservation of the species. Seed may also be used for multiplication to replenish seed in the seed bank.

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August 2015 - Visit to the Millennium Seed Bank, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

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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