Svalbard Global Seed Vault

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Germination tests

On the life guard - viability testing at NordGen

The most important task of NordGen’s seed laboratory is to control the quality of the collected seeds. One of the most important characteristics of seeds in a gene-bank is their viability.

The viability of the seed accession is a measure of how many seeds are alive and could develop into plants that will reproduce themselves, given the appropriate conditions. Seed viability depends primarily on the plant species and the conditions in which the seeds are stored. The oldest documented studies on seed viability were performed no more than150 years ago but it is estimated that the seeds of many plant species can remain alive for hundreds to thousands of years under gene-bank conditions (15% RH,-20°C). Even in optimal conditions the seeds age in the course of time. This process can be especially fast if the initial seed viability was poor or the storage conditions were inappropriate, i.e. the seeds were stored in high temperature and humidity. The aging of the seeds may lead to genetic erosion or death of the stored accessions. Read more





Text and pictures by Pawel Chrominski