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9. Seed Collection Techniques

All seed collections that are a part of SOS should follow the protocol below.





Assess the target population and confirm that a sufficient number of individual plants (> 50) have seeds at natural dispersal stage.

To ensure that adequate genetic diversity can be sampled from the population, and that the seeds are likely to be at maximum possible viability and longevity.


Carefully examine a small, representative sample of seeds using a cut test and for smaller seeds a hand lens.

Estimate the frequency of empty or damaged seeds and confirm that the majority of seeds are mature and fully formed.


Collect mature, dry seeds in either cloth or brown paper bags.  Large collections can be made using plastic buckets and then transferred into bags.

Ensure the highest possible viability at collection and maximize the potential storage life.


Cleaning should be left to the processing staff at the Bend Seed Extractory for federal partners. 

Maximize the use of available field time and clean and prepare seeds in controlled laboratory conditions.


Fleshy fruits should be collected directly into plastic bags. Specific advice on ripening and cleaning fleshy fruits is in Section 13, or contact Bend Staff if specific guidance is needed.

Fleshy fruits decompose rapidly and poor storage can lead to mold infested seed collections.


Sample equally and randomly across the extent of the population, maintaining a record of the number of individuals sampled.

Capture the widest possible genetic diversity from the plant population sampled.  Where the population exhibits a pattern of local variation, use a stratified random sampling method to ensure sampling from each microsite.


Collect no more than 20% of the viable seed available on the day of collection.

Ensure that the sampled population is not over collected and is maintainable.


Collect seeds from a population throughout its dispersal season, seeds from a population collected in the same year can be combined as one collection, using the same seed collection reference number.  Note the multiple dates of collections on the SOS field data form.

Maximize genetic diversity in the collection, capturing early, mid, and late bloomers.


Collect 10,000 to 20,000+ viable seeds. However, collections of all sizes are welcome.  The smaller the collection, the less useful it will be.

Enable maximum use and study of the collection.  The first 10,000 viable seeds are transferred directly to the SOS National Collection.


The first 10,000 seeds of each collection sent to Bend becomes part of the SOS National Collection.  Collections sent to Bend can be cleaned and sent back to collectors if they are needed for native plant materials development research or a re-seeding project.  See Section 14 for details on requesting material from Bend.

Seed from Bend is then sent to the NCGRP, Ft. Collins, CO for long-term storage and the WRPIS for long-term storage and working collections.
Anything over 10,000 can be requested back by the collector or shipped to a partner organization for research and development.


For each collection, estimate the viable seed production per fruit, per individual and per population, and note these on the field data form.

Document species seed biology, better assess the influence of collecting on the population, and gather information to better document if we are meeting Standards for Rangeland Health for native plant communities.


Clearly label all bags (inside and out) with the appropriate collection number.  No other data needs to be included on the label.  Do not write on cotton seed bags with permanent marker; the bags will be reused.

To ensure that this unique identifier is attached to each sample of a collection.  All other data will be recorded on the field data form.

Next: Identification and Herbarium Specimens

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Last Updated: 15-Apr-2011