The Seed Centre

The central hub of our seed conservation

Located in Kilclief, Co Down the seed centre is open to the public during normal working hours.

To ensure that we’re in if you’re going to drop in you can ring the office first on 028 4488 1736 to check.  It’s very possible that in the summer and autumn we’ll be out on seed collecting expeditions.

We’ll be happy to show you around, you can have a coffee or tea with us while we chat about all things plants.

The lab

Processing and storage of the collections

Our lab in Kilclief is where we process the seed collections as they come in:

  • The seed are laid out to dry in ambient conditions.
  • The herbarium specimens are put into fresh dry paper and given a label.
  • The DNA samples are labelled and stored in silica gel.
  • The information from the data sheet is entered into the database and finally
  • The photographs are stored on the backup drive.

Its also where the seed is processed for long term storage in the seed bank.

  • Seed is cleaned and dried down to 15% relative humidity.
  • Seeds are packaged ready for the deep freeze.
  • Collections are labelled and catalogued.

The Seed Bank

Houses the seeds

The seed bank, or seed vault is our freezer where the seeds are stored at -20C.

To enable the seeds to be stored at this low temperature they’re first cleaned, dried down to 15% relative humidity (RH) then catalogued, labelled, bagged or bottled.

In these conditions seeds can last up to and beyond 200 years.

Seed collctions are held in two batches. One, a base lot, which remains in deep storage to ensure the survival of the species.  Another lot is held available for requests to withdraw from the bank for restoration projects and also for testing purposes.

The polytunnel

Outdoor space for working with seeds and plants

Seeds are planted in seed trays and then pricked out into modules inside the polytunnel – which also provides a working space for our staff and volunteers out of the elements.

Shading can be positioned to allow either very wet or large collections to be dried out in plenty of air circulation.

Hardier older plants are moved to outside beds to complete their life-cycle.  The seed from these will be used to bulk out small collections of plants and ultimately provide more seed for local restoration projects.

Research

Based in Strangford

Plant material is gathered at the same time as getting the herbarium specimens and photos. It is brought to the centre and stored for future uses including possible determination of the genetic history of species in Ireland. In this it is our hope to facilitate research students in the future.

Germination testing is carried out on the collected seeds. Ultimately this data is used to test the viability of the seed collections for long term storage over time. Only a germination rate of 85% and above is sufficient for long term storage. Depending on viability results, the seeds will be retested for viabillity at sitable intervals and compared against the original germination tests. If a population is showing signs of ageing or losing viability they can be planted and grown out for a new batch of seed, or a new collection made.

THS has installed this new production unit at Kilclief creating a working hub from which to preserve our wild flowers.

If you would like to find out more and or become involved in the work here please contact us at info@trueharvestseeds.co.uk.

If it’s volunteering you’d like to do please see our volunteering page for more details or email barbara@trueharvestseeds.co.uk.

There are many facets to our work and we welcome every opportunity to work with people and share our knowledge about seeds and plants.

There are currently plans for us to work with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV).  They are providing short practical courses or a City and Guilds in Horticulture level 1 which will be facilitated at the Seed Centre, aimed at long term unemployed people, to provide potential opportunities for getting back to paid employment.  For more information send Nadine of TCV an email: nadine.mcauley@tcv.org.uk.