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Margot Forde Genebank
The Margot Forde Genebank is New Zealand's national seed bank of grassland plants and also hosts the New Zealand Indigenous Flora Seed Bank. It is recognised as a Nationally Significant Collection and Database.
Plant germplasm consists of seeds of genetically diverse plant populations that are conserved for use in plant breeding and to ensure the survival of groups of plants. The objectives of the Genebank are to obtain germplasm, to conserve it, replenish it and distribute it for research and product development, throughout New Zealand and globally.
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The grassland collections are very important because New Zealand's export economy is based predominantly on pasture, and almost all our pasture species are exotic. The collection provides the foundation for pasture, turf and soil conservation, plant breeding and research in New Zealand. Pasture species must be changed as problems arise, e.g., new pests, climate change, etc. The Genebank thus provides the biological economy with insurance against future problems arising from environmental changes. The collection also allows conservation of rare species, or those from unstable environments.
The Genebank holds more than 165,000 seed samples from about 100 countries representing 2,500 species from 500 genera and over 70 plant families. The collection includes extensive wild collections of useful species, samples of domestic and foreign cultivars, breeders lines and genetic stocks.
Plant introduction and germplasm collection are important parts of the work of the Genebank. In recent years, collecting expeditions have been carried out in areas of special relevance to New Zealand. Collection missions enable, and are enabled by, international collaborations with other seed banks, universities, and world-renowned institutes.
The active collection is housed in medium term storage (0°C and 30% relative humidity) to prolong viability. Under these conditions, grass seeds will remain viable for 20-30 years and legumes 20-50 years.
Long term storage at a lower temperatures (-20°C) is available and requires very dry seed.
The Genebank has a drying room (15°C and 15% relative humidity) which allows seeds to be dried to low moisture contents before storage. Recently, safety duplicate samples have been sent to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway (pictured below).
Seed stocks are replenished using specialised facilities which allow separate populations to be physically and genetically isolated from each other.
A database is maintained of all seed holdings and samples issued. The public part of this database is available on the Internet. Seeds from the collection are freely available to bona fide researchers worldwide. Associated research includes DNA analysis to maximise the conservation of genetic diversity and to identify useful wild species that can be crossed with economic species.
Public information is gradually being shared to Genesys(external link), an online platform where your can find information about Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA) conserved in genebanks worldwide.
New Zealand Indigenous Flora Seed Bank
The Genebank hosts the New Zealand Indigenous Flora Seed Bank(external link) on behalf of the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. This is a collection of seeds of populations of indigenous species that are endangered in the wild. By storing seeds, these populations can be conserved for long periods and the seeds provide insurance against future loss in their natural habitats.