Strategic initiatives

  • Seed collection. Image - Ruth Bone

    Seed collection. Image - Ruth Bone

Seed banking: insurance against extinction of taonga plants

A variety of tools will be needed in the biosecurity toolkits of tomorrow: systems, practices, protocols and new technologies will be required to combat emerging and as-yet-unanticipated biosecurity threats. Seed banking (the collection and storage of plant seeds) offers one possible tool because of its potential to future-proof a species from extinction or to protect plant varieties or strains in perpetuity.

Māori traditionally undertook planting and harvest practices according to the maramataka (lunar calendar). Tikanga (protocols) were in place for the collection and storage of seed, including for taonga species such as pōhutukawa, mānuka and rātā. However, this traditional knowledge has not previously been blended with contemporary international expertise in seed banking.

The Māori biosecurity solutions (myrtle rust) team, in conjunction with Te Tira Whakamātaki (the Māori Biosecurity Network), worked with the Royal Botanic Garden and Millennium Seed Bank Partnership at Kew in the UK. They leveraged international expertise in seed banking in response to iwi and hapū concerns about the potential impacts of the plant pathogen myrtle rust on native flora.

Courses on seed-banking and conservation techniques with visiting experts from the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership and Australian Seed Bank Partnership were held at the Auckland Botanical Gardens, and the Otari Native Botanic Garden and Wilton Bush Reserve in Wellington in late 2017. Four ‘drum seed kits’ were built and gifted to rōpū including Ngāti Tamaoho, Ngamanawa Inc. (Ngāti Hangarau) and Te Poho o Huturangi Taioa Hub (Ngāti Porou). The seed kits are easy to build and straightforward to use, enabling communities to collect and store seed according to local collection tikanga.

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