People from ancient times are practicing seed collection and storage. This collection and storage was limited and some specified seeds were stored and collected which were used for further propagation. So the seeds like maize and wheat have got the privilege of storage from early times. Other wild plants were having one germplasm and that was the soil itself where they use to stay for years and germinates when the time was feasible for them and that’s how the life cycle of the wild plants continues.
Extinction of plant and animal species can be considered natural phenomena but from the last 3-4 decades the rate of extinction is triggered and within a limited span thousands of plant and animal species is now extinct, are endangered or are on the verge of becoming threatened. According to natural geographic 100-1000 species lost per million per year mostly due to habitat destruction caused by humans and climate change. Now the question is that if the number is increasing how we can stop it or at least reduce it?? Talking about plant conservation one ideal ex-situ practice could be storing the seeds in a seed bank.
A seed bank is collection of seeds that stores and preserves the genetic diversity of plants so it can be called as a gene bank. Seeds of different plant species can be collected and stored in a seed bank where they can be used for further propagation and research as well. Even if not for the research the seeds would simply be stored in seed/gene bank. It facilitates valuable seed storage and seed exchange.
Pakistan is hosting a diverse range of habitats starting from the coastal zones (0 m) up to the upper Himalayan region (8611 m). Such altitudinal and geographical variation has made Pakistan to host diverse flora and fauna. Pakistan is hosting 6000 plans and in which 480 or more are valuable medicinal plants. Presently we are not having a specific seed bank where we can say that we are storing the genetic diversity of our plant species. As per a report published in THE NEWS INTERNATIONAL “As many as 400 plant species being used in traditional medicines now fall under ‘threatened’ category that must be a source of grave concern for the public and the relevant authorities as well”. According to the guardian “the prevalence of seed banks in Pakistan has been limited to combat post-disaster rehabilitation efforts”. In Pakistan no such specific germplasm is set in order to conserve the genetic diversity of the regional/endemic flora.
Seed storage is considered one of the crucial steps in conservation sciences and worldwide Botanical gardens, universities and conservation organization are working on the seed collection and storing it under controlled environment. They are providing the seed storage facility for global seed collection of wild plants specially. Every country can participate in these conservation projects. According to BGCI (Botanical Garden Conservation International) that there are 400 botanical gardens that have seed banks maintaining seeds in long term storage. There are some valuable seed banks around the world that are contributing towards the global seed conservation. These seed banks include a) Millennium Seed Bank, Wakehurst, England, b) Navdanya, Uttrakhand, India, c) Svalbard Global Seed Vault, Norway d) National Center for Genetic Resources, Fort Collins, Colorado and e) Vavilov Research Institute, Russia. All these major seed banks are contributing in conservation of thousands of seed specimens and are providing the facility of seed exchange as well.
For purpose of conservation and preservation seed bank is considered a valuable option. As seed is a convenient mean of long term storage. Seeds are dried and stored in moisture proof containers. Seed banks are simple in principle but their maintenance need skill and techniques. A temperature of -20 0C is recommended for seed storage by Millennium Seed Bank. Seed banks are the more appropriate means of ex-situ (off site) conservation.
Now days there are different Private and Public Sector Universities in Pakistan having the departments of plants and environmental sciences. Such departments can even start seed collection and storage practices on small level so that the wild plant species seeds would be stored in these seed/gene banks.