University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE

Seed Banks

Botanic gardens, often the home of many seed banks, can do a tremendous amount for conservation of rare varieties. Whilst London Zoo house 900 species of animals, The Royal Botanic Garden in Kew holds over 50,000 of the world’s 250,000 species of plants.

Plants are easier and cheaper to keep and there are no welfare issues.


  • Seed storage:
    • Many plants are kept as seeds although they will be grown periodically in order to maintain viability.
    • Most seeds remain viable for 15 years although scientists suggest that it is possible to extend this to 200 years using modern preservation techniques such as keeping them at -50C. or by reducing their water content to 5%.
    • This does not apply to all seeds (only about 80%) and many require very specific storage conditions.
  • A coconutField Gene Banks:
    • About 20% of seeds cannot be stored for long periods (Mango, Robber and coconut) and these plants must be stored ‘in situ’ as plants.
  • Protected areas :
    • Over 3500 ‘plant areas’ have been set aside to conserve genetic resources in over 125 different countries.
    • Special ‘biosphere reserves’ have also been created, which represent the main world ecosystem types (269 areas in 70 countries).
  • Global Germ Plasm (seeds) :
    • In 1972 the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) set up an organization to aid, collect, conserve and utilize plant germ plasm worldwide. This organization (IPGRI) now has research stations and 200 National Gene Banks worldwide.
      International Plant Genetic Resource Institute.

      Global Germ Plasm
      reserves (IPGRI).



Investigate the work of Kew Gardens in Gene Banks for plants
 Millennium Seed Bank Project – Kew Gardens




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