Ruth Harker visited RNG last week to study herbarium spcimens collected by Nigel Maxtead while he was working with Professor Frank Bisby. She writes:
I’m working on the Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change Project, which is based at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. The aim of the project is to collect seed from the wild plant relatives of 29 common crop plants whose genetic diversity can be used to breed new and useful traits into commercial crops so they can better adapt to future climates and other threats, such as pests and diseases. The crops we are focusing on include apple, banana, barley, butter bean, carrot, chickpea, aubergine (eggplant), lentil, oat, pea, potato, rice, rye, sunflower, sweet potato and bread wheat.
Recently the Millennium Seed Bank received some seed collections which were made in Syria and Turkey about 30 years ago. These seeds were not fully identified when they were collected so we do not know exactly which species there are. When a seed collection is made, a corresponding herbarium voucher is also collected, and duplicates of these herbarium vouchers are thought to be stored in the herbarium at Reading. I visited the herbarium to try and track down some of these herbarium vouchers in order to identify what our mystery seed collections are because Reading University Herbarium holds many collections by Nigel Maxted of the legume tribe Vicieae provided by the late Professor Frank Bisby.
Looking through the specimens in the herbarium I was able to identify one of the collections as Lathyrus stenophyllus, which is a wild relative of the grasspea.
More details of the project here: http://www.kew.org/science-conservation/save-seed-prosper/millennium-seed-bank/projects-partners/more-seed-projects/crop-wild-relatives/