All posts by melight

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Time for an update!

Fologollowing on from our last post in which we (very sadly!) had to cancel our proposed conference, we thought it was time for a short update! Actually, at the moment we don’t have too much to share in the way of any recent updates, but really we do need some updated information from you, the ‘followers’ of the IUFRO 2.09.03 Tree Seed Technology and Physiology Blog.

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) HQ would like to construct a VIRTUAL ADDRESS BOOK of all the active members within our group, the IUFRO 2.09.03 Tree Seed Technology and Physiology group (that means you, if you are reading this)!

So, please kindly send your details to me by Monday 13th June. Information required is as per the following example:

First Name: John
Last Name: Doe
Country: Austria
Organization: United Foresters of Austria

Many thanks,

Shelagh McCartan
IUFRO Working Group 2.09.03 Co-ordinator




Cancellation of IUFRO WG 2.09.03 Tree Seed Technology and Physiology Conference

Unfortunately, the conference organisers have decided to cancel the IUFRO WG 2.09.03 Tree Seed Technology and Physiology Conference, which was scheduled for later this year. Despite an enormous effort to try and arrange this conference, there was very poor interest and uptake by members, along with a huge potential financial risk to Forest Research. However, should there be sufficient interest shown in the future, there is a strong possibility that a conference can be arranged. We wish you all the best for your research endeavours, and would like to encourage you to continue your excellent research in tree seed physiology and technology.

Details on the 2016 IUFRO Tree Seed Physiology and Technology Conference


PLEASE NOTE: We regret that this conference has, unfortunately, been cancelled! We have retained the details here for future reference only. We apologise for any inconvenience.

Registration and abstract submission details for the 2016 IUFRO Tree Seed Physiology and Technology Conference are now available! Click here for all the information on the conference to be held from the 29th June – 1st July 2016 in Portsmouth (UK).

Please note that the final date for registration, payment and abstract submission is Friday 27th May 2016.

We do realise that this is relatively short notice, but we would encourage you to make every effort to attend and to present your research. We do require a minimum of 15 delegates for the conference to proceed, but hope to see many tree seed scientists in Portsmouth at the end of June 2016.

Three broad themes for the conference are as follows:

  1. Technology: testing, stratifying and storing tree seeds.
  2. Physiology and ecology: germination and dormancy breakage of tree seeds in a changing climate.
  3. Pests and pathogens: detection and eradication of current and emerging threats in tree seeds.

We look forward to your participation!

Shelagh McCartan, on behalf of the Organising Committee

IUFRO Tree Seed Physiology and Technology Conference: 29th June- 1st July 2016

We would like to invite you to present your research related to tree seed physiology and technology at the IUFRO WG 2.09.03 conference, which will be hosted by Forest Research, an agency of Forestry Commission, Great Britain.

The conference, to be held from 29th June to 1st July 2016, will be held in Portsmouth (UK), which is a cosmopolitan, waterfront city with good road and rail transport links.

We look forward to seeing you there! More details regarding the registration and costs will be available shortly.

Shelagh McCartan, on behalf of the Organising Committee

Call for papers: Smoke ecology/technology

Some of you may know that one of my (Marnie Light’s) favourite topics of research is related to the effects of plant-derived smoke on seed germination. In November last year, I attended a ‘special session’ on smoke ecology at the 6th International Fire Ecology & Management Congress organised by the Association for Fire Ecology (AFE). The special session was hosted by Dr Mary Lata, who arranged the programme for the special session. It was fantastic to have an entire session dedicated to this topic, and a great opportunity for me to meet Prof. Jon Keeley (USA) and Prof. Mark Ooi (Australia), as well as several other researchers in the field.

Following some discussion with the organisers and the Editor-in-Chief of the South African Journal of Botany, it was decided to run a special issue on ‘Smoke Ecology and Applications of Plant-Derived Smoke‘ in the journal. The aim of this is to highlight some of the research presented at the AFE congress, as well as to publish articles on related topics.

We are inviting anyone who has carried out research relating to the effects of plant-derived smoke on seed germination or plant growth (smoke ecology/technology) to submit their manuscripts for inclusion in this special issue.

For more information, please click SAJB Special issue – Smoke Ecology (Flyer) for a copy of the ‘flyer’, and SAJB Special Issue – Smoke Ecology (Detailed call for papers) for more detail on the requirements and how to submit your article. Please contact the guest editors of this special issue should you have any queries.

Maximising seed resources for restoration

Here’s another interesting article that was published at the end of 2015:

Maximizing seed resources for restoration in an uncertain future
Linda M. Broadhurst, Thomas A. Jones, Forrest S. Smith, Tom North, Lydia Guja

This is a nice article that discusses the need to “develop a range of flexible strategies” in order to meet the growing demand for seed-based plant restoration projects.

Understanding ‘germination rate’

At the end of November 2015, the following article was published in the Australian Journal of Botany. A worthwhile read, the article discusses some problems with using mean time to germination (MGT) for comparing pairs or groups of means to evaluate seed vigour since MGT is an ‘index of germination speed’. Rather, the authors suggest using t50 (time to 50% germination). For more detailed information, get your own copy by clicking on the title link below! This is definitely a useful article for seed scientists, and also contains several  references to other papers discussing germination measurements.

Problems with using mean germination time to calculate rate of seed germination
Elias Soltani, Farshid Ghaderi-Far, Carol C. Baskin, Jerry M. Baskin
Australian Journal of Botany

Vacancy: Seed Technology Manager (Johannesburg, South Africa)

The position of Seed Technology Manager has become available in the Research Department at the Stark Ayres Head Office in Johannesburg (South Africa). Deadline for application is 15 January 2016, and more information can be found here: Seed Technology Manager – KFN – Dec 2015

Reporting to the Research Manager, the purpose of the position is twofold:

(1) To develop, seek, test and implement seed treatments and technologies to complement Starke Ayres genetics, and

(2) To oversee functioning of the QA process by taking into account all relevant data for each seed lot (genetic purity, seed health, germination and vigour) and deciding on the most appropriate course of action in order to maximize rapid sale of approved seed and minimize risk for potentially problematic seed lots.

 Responsibilities include:

  • Continuously look out for new ways to positively complement and add value to the genetics of Starke Ayres seeds.
  • Oversee implementation and adoption of validated treatments/methods into the factory.
  • Design and develop novel seed treatment processes to apply seed treatment formulations to seeds that maintain or improve upon treated seed characteristics and that are transferable to manufacturing.
  • Monitor trends in quality parameters (moisture / germination) of stored seed lots to ensure minimal loss of saleable seed.
  • Oversee the Quality assurance process from a high level to co-ordinate results from the seed germination laboratory, the biotechnology laboratory and pathology laboratory.

Minimum requirements:

  • MSc (Agric) / MSc with Botany
  • 3 – 5 years’ experience in a similar role
  • Computer literacy (Word & Excel – Intermediate to Advanced level) essential
  • Strong communication and organisational skills and attention to detail will be required in order to be successful in this role.

Interested and suitably qualified? Forward your CV to the HR Department via e-mail: (NB: Please use the name and area of the position as a reference on the application)

Closing date for applications: Friday, 15 January 2016

Season’s greetings 2015

Once again, another year has flown by, and we find ourselves in the middle of December 2015! Towards the end of last year, we had hoped to host a small conference in the middle of this year, but unfortunately, we were unable to make it happen. However, the seed of that idea remains viable, albeit somewhat dormant at this stage, but we will do our best to get it to germinate at some stage in the near future!

Slowly, but surely, the number of blog followers have increased, and we now have around 30-35 followers. It is a reasonable improvement compared to having around 15-20 followers last year, but we need more! This blog is the primary mechanism for communication for our IUFRO Unit 2.09.03 and it is important that we use this as a useful communication tool. So, please tell your friends and colleagues about our blog and ask them to sign up to receive updates (we promise not to send too many), and do send us any information that you may wish to share on the blog.

We trust that 2015 has been a successful year, and that your research is progressing steadily.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Wishing you all the very best over the Festive Season, and for the New Year ahead!

Shelagh and Marnie

The Global Tree Seed Bank Initiative

Introduction to our ‘Guest Blog’ below (by Shelagh McCartan)

I recently spotted an article about the ‘Global Tree Seed Bank Initiative’. I asked Tannis Beardmore, who is involved in the ex situ conservation of native tree species in Canada, to provide some facts and figures about the critically endangered species that are currently under-represented in seed banks.

Guest Blog by Tannis Beardmore (Tree Seed Researcher at Natural Resources Canada, Canada)

There are an estimated 80,000 species of trees in the world. Approximately 450 species are used today in commercial forestry and are stored in forestry seed banks leaving the remaining 79,550 species with uncertain representation in ex situ conservation. Over 9,000 tree species are currently assessed as threatened with extinction, and over 1,100 species are listed on IUCN red lists as Critically Endangered and they are likely to become extinct unless urgent action is taken. Recently, it was identified that 74% of the most threatened trees are absent from ex situ collections. There is such uncertainty with regard to the full impact of a species going extinct. Species diversity ensures ecosystem resilience, giving ecological communities the scope they need to withstand stressors. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have estimated that losing one plant species from an ecosystem can create a cascade of up to 30 other localised plant and animal extinctions.

Seed banking is becoming more important than ever as species populations are disappearing at greatly accelerated rates as a result of a variety of stressors. Given the magnitude and scope of the challenges we face in conserving plant diversity, seed are often the propagule of choice to collect and store. Seed banks can offer the most cost-effective means for storing large numbers of species over long periods of time. Many seed banks were created in the 1970s-80s and were developed to address the global surge in agricultural crop yields. It was recognized that vast amount of agricultural biodiversity was being lost, as farmers abandoned old seeds, often locally developed over centuries, for new hybrids. Excellent initiatives have been developed primarily to address the ex situ conservation of agricultural seed. Recently, there is focus on the ex situ conservation of tree species.

In 2014, the Global Tree Seed Bank Initiative was developed and became possible through funding by the Garfield Weston Foundation in Canada (funding of £5 million). This initiative is a 4-year project which involves the Global Trees Campaign (GTC) and the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership (MSBP) who will work with partners around the world to provide training on seed collection and establish ex situ seed collections for threatened tree species. The GTC was launched as a joint initiative in 1999 between Fauna & Flora International and Botanic Gardens Conservation International to conserve the world’s threatened tree species, while the MSBP is an international conservation project coordinated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, United Kingdom. The goal of the Global Tree Seed Bank Initiative is to establish an ex situ collection in each species’ country of origin, while back-up collections will also be established at the Millennium Seed Bank.

This initiative has the goal to secure ex situ collections of seed from 500 priority tree species from around the world with a focus on threatened trees. The partnership also aims to increase capacity for seed collection of threatened trees and raise awareness of the value of establishing seed collections for the world’s threatened trees. Currently, the MSBP has already collected seed from 3900 trees over the last 14 years, and as a result of this new project aims to increase its tree collections by 50% over four years (by March 2019).

This initiative is working with existing and new MSB partners across the world to target seed collection of the rarest, most threatened and useful trees. Fifteen countries across four continents are participating in this initiative. Alongside seed collecting, a research programme is being undertaken to improve our knowledge of tree species leading to improved conservation. Propagation protocols are being established for key species and used for forest restoration projects. A DNA fingerprint library of important timber species is being assembled for pinpointing the geographical origin of timber exports. Storage protocols for recalcitrant tree species like oak (Quercus) and magnolia (Magnolia) are being developed. Genetic studies on rare trees are being carried out to help design species recovery programmes in island habitats. Additionally, methodologies are being established to study tree species traits and their resilience to environmental threats, leading to better prioritisation of species for seed banking. This is an exciting initiative which should have a significant impact on conserving some of the world’s most threatened tree species.

For more information about the Global Trees Campaign go to or email