Extending the life-span of seeds with cryopreservation
Lyndle Hardstaff is a Curtin University PhD student working on an Australian Research Council project at the Australian PlantBank located at the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan.
Her research aims to conserve Australian rainforest species using cryopreservation, a potential insurance policy against the extinction of native plants in the wild. Cryopreservation involves putting plant material in liquid nitrogen as a long-term storage method for conservation.
Species in the family Araucariaceae, including Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii) and the Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis), are perfect candidates for cryopreservation. If their seeds are dried in the usual seedbanking process, they will die or have a shortened lifespan.
Collaboration between Lyndle and staff at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, the Australian Botanic Garden, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, and Centennial Parklands has led to collection of more than 100 massive Bunya Pine cones.
However, viable seed from the cones so far has been minimal (0-5 per cone), perhaps due to prolonged dry conditions in the previous spring. A lack of viable seed thwarts the effort to collect the embryo within the seed that Lyndle intends to store experimentally using cryopreservation.
Bunya Pine cone scale and seeds