The seed and tissue bank was established in the early 1990s. The activities undertaken in the bank constitute a practical fulfilment of Poland’s international commitments in the field of active ex situ conservation. One of the objectives of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, adopted at the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP10) (Aichi Targets), is to prevent the extinction of endangered species.
Low temperature storage (-20oC) of seeds and tissue – cryopreservation – as well as preservation in liquid nitrogen at temperatures from -160°C to -196°C were chosen as methods for long-term storage of seeds in the bank.
To prepare seeds for long-term storage we employ the methodology developed at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (UK) described in the ‘Seed Bank Recommendations and Protocols’ (http://ensconet.maich.gr/PDF/Curation_protocol_Polish.pdf) and internal seed bank procedures.
The most important stage of the work is seed drying. Lowering the original moisture level of the sample to about 6-8% is necessary because of the low temperatures at which the seeds are to be deposited. This process is carried out in a special chamber where the seeds are slowly dried at a temperature of +20°C and 20% relative humidity, after which germination tests are performed. If the sample is found to be viable, it undergoes further stages in preparation for freezing.
After cleaning, drying and assessing viability, seed samples are evaluated for resistance to freezing. The main hazard of the freezing process is the crystallisation of water contained in the seed. The growth of ice crystals can cause mechanical damage to the frozen material, but it is possible to safely freeze the seed by reducing the water content of the seed in advance.
Seeds deposited in the bank not only form a permanent genetic reserve but can also be used to restore or strengthen declining populations.
CRYOGENIC COLLECTION OF APPLE TREES
One of the newest collections is a cryogenic gene bank of historical apple tree varieties (Malus domestica Borkh.). The cryogenic apple tree collection complements the protection of genetic resources that the pomological orchard has provided for this species for many years, increasing the level of protection of the varieties collected. This is possible due to the fact that the samples collected in the Gene Bank are completely isolated from adverse weather conditions, pest and pathogen pressure, and possible natural disasters.
COLLECTION OF RYE AND WILD SPECIES
Since the early 1970s, the garden has been working to collect, reproduce and conserve the biodiversity of rye. To date, a collection of more than 2500 objects has been assembled. The collection consists of local forms, cultivars, breeding lines and wild species obtained through expeditions and exchanges with other centres.
In addition to cultivated forms and wild species of the genus Secale, inbred lines of rye and other wild genera and species of the Triticeae tribe, e.g. barleys, goats, perches, are also collected. These ancestors of cultivated species may provide important traits for the breeding of new cultivars, e.g. resistance traits.