| Story by Cindy Cain |
Chokeberry seeds that were plucked from the Forest Preserve District's Kankakee Sands Preserve in Custer Township last year are now being stored in two national seed vaults.
The Kankakee Sands specimens are among leaf tissue and seeds collected from four Illinois sites. The genetic materials will be used for research projects and stored for safekeeping in a seed bank at the North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station in Ames, Iowa, as well as at the National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colorado, which is a long-term, backup storage facility.
The leaf tissue samples were placed in packets with silica beads, freeze dried and tucked into sealed, air-tight packets that are now being stored in a room at 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit). The chokeberry seeds are stored in re-sealable, thick-plastic, see-through packaging being kept at a cool minus 18 degrees Celsius (minus 0.4 Fahrenheit) in a large walk-in freezer.
Additional seeds grown from some of the Illinois samples could, eventually, go to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. The Norway facility offers, “safe, free and long-term storage of seed duplicates from all genebanks and nations participating in the global community’s joint effort to ensure the world’s future food supply.”
Seed collecting is part of national and international programs designed to preserve genetic materials should there be natural or human-caused disasters that harm or eliminate species and reduce the planet’s biodiversity. The samples also are protected and prepped for use by scientists as they work to create disease-resistant species.