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ASBP delivering seed training in New Zealand

One of the goals that guides the work of the Australian Seed Bank Partnership is sharing our knowledge of seed conservation as widely as possible, both within Australia and overseas. Some of the ways we do this is by participating in workshops and fora about best practice approaches to seed conservation. Another important element to sharing our knowledge is the participation in training events where our collectors can share their knowledge with those that are less experienced.

Over the next two weeks, representatives from the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha and the Australian PlantBank, Mt Annan are taking turns to help the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership deliver seed conservation training in New Zealand. The training will take place in Auckland and Wellington and is aimed at building the capacity of New Zealand’s botanical and biosecurity communities to identify and collect seed from native species. The training will include specific components on the identification and collection of those species most affected by Myrtle Rust. With Myrtle Rust recently discovered in New Zealand* it is critical that the local community has the skills to collect seed or even cuttings, as insurance for those species impacted by Myrtle Rust.

Rhodomyrtus psidioides, NSW Photo: Kris Kupsch

Collecting and banking orthodox seed will ensure that species are available for future research and restoration efforts. However, Myrtle Rust affects many species whose seed is unsuitable for long-term storage in traditional seed banks. Seed from these species are otherwise known as non-orthodox or recalcitrant. We can still collect recalcitrant seed for short-term banking or cuttings to grow-on in Botanic Gardens as living collections as a means to maintain the genetic diversity of the species. However these approaches are resource intensive with seed needing to be recollected regularly and the living plants in ex-situ collections are still at risk from Myrtle Rust incursions.

Rhodamnia rubescens cuttings. Photo: ASBP

Rhodamnia rubescens cuttings at Booderee National Park nursery. Photo: ASBP

For this reason it is so important that seed collecting is complemented by further research to help discover possible longer-term seed conservation options for recalcitrant species. This improved knowledge can then be shared with the botanical and biosecurity communities to support improved conservation outcomes for the broader Myrtaceae family.

We are confident that the current training will lead to even closer collaboration between the Australian and New Zealand botanical communities both for seed conservation and research. The Australian Seed Bank Partnership would like to thank the Maori Biosecurity Network for inviting us to help deliver training and to the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries for supporting our participation. We wish all of the trainers and participants well for the next two weeks.

*The Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre is also delivering research to improve our collective ability to respond to the threat of Myrtle Rust. Their website offers a comprehensive background on Myrtle Rust in Australia as well as some information on its recent discovery in New Zealand - http://www.pbcrc.com.au/news/2016/pbcrc/myrtle-rust-threat-australian-landscape-and-plant-industries