Kew doesn’t store seed only at the Millennium Seed Bank

The Livingstone Online website coming up pretty much out of the blue on my Facebook timeline a couple of days back reminded me that I had wanted to point to the online database of the Kew Economic Botany Collection, if for no other reason than that we haven’t done it before, and that the collection includes seed samples, not least a few collected on the good doctor’s expeditions. Then of course they went and posted something about the database on their blog yesterday. Anyway, we’ve talked about the potential value of museum seed specimens before. In particular, if you search for “sorghum seed” in this case you get (among other things) what is clearly a rather remarkable collection of material from Tanzania, sent to Kew in 1934 by the “Director of Agriculture.” Each seed sample is labelled with a local name. Wouldn’t it be great to go back and see if landraces with those names can still be found, and maybe even compare their DNA with anything that can be extracted from these old seeds?

2 Replies to “Kew doesn’t store seed only at the Millennium Seed Bank”

  1. Thanks for this, Luigi. The sorghum collection – all 956 accessions – was acquired by J.D. Snowden while working on his 1936 book (still in print!) “Cultivated Races of Sorghum”.

    It’s a perfect example of a collection that 20 years ago would have seemed useless (old seeds, mostly dead) but thanks to new techniques (DNA analysis) suddenly looks very interesting as a record of landrace distribution before the Green Revolution.

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