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Seed futures

The Seed Futures research theme aims to identify new, alternative crops for sustainable agriculture from neglected and under-utilised species (NUS) through the biochemical characterisation of seeds and assessment for functional and nutritional traits.
Xanthium seeds
Seeds of Jatropha pseudocurcas, a potential oilseed crop (photo: C. Christensen)

As the demand for food, fuel and fibre is affected by climate change and population growth, the need to identify alternative crops is increasingly important. Indigenous species with high genetic diversity and environmental adaptation offer opportunities for exploitation and are a key focus of our current research:

  • high-throughput screening of oily seeds which may provide both food and biofuel, is underway in species from key genera of known value or of socio-economic importance. Our studies on their seed biology, distribution mapping and resolving taxonomic issues will contribute towards developing these new wild species as resources for the future.
  • identification of traits for stress tolerance, such as temperature, salt and drought, during the germination phase are critical to predicting the vulnerability of a species to environmental change.
  • the impact of the environment on seed quality and molecular pathways involved in environmental sensing and signalling, is key to determining seed fate and in safeguarding the seeds of wild plant species under environmental change.
  • many seed metabolites are of nutritional value or are involved in stress resistance, and we are increasing understanding through chemotaxonomic and tissue-specific studies to assess the distribution of such molecules.

Such comparative studies in which seeds are characterised for their biochemical, functional and nutritional traits, may identify new, alternative crops for sustainable agriculture of the future.

Recent Publications

*denotes Kew staff

  • Alhdad, G. M., Seal*, C. E., Al-Azzawi, J. & Flowers, T. J. (2013) The effect of combined salinity and waterlogging on the halophyte Suaeda maritima: the role of antioxidants. Environmental and Experimental Botany 87: 120-125.
  • Flores, J., Jurado, E., Chapa-Vargas, L., Ceroni Stuva, A., Dávila Aranda, P., Galíndez, G., Gurvich, D., León-Lobos, P., Ordoñez, C., Ortega-Baes, P., Ramírez Bullón, N., Sandoval, A., Seal*, C.E., Ulian*, T. & Pritchard* H.W. (2011) Seeds photoblastism and its relationship with some plant traits in 136 cacti taxa. Environmental and Experimental Botany 71: 79-88.
  • Kranner, I. & Seal*, C.E. (2013) Salt stress, signalling and redox control in seeds. Functional Plant Biology,
  • Orru, M., Mattana, E., Pritchard*, H. W. & Bacchetta, G. (2012) Thermal thresholds as predictors of seed dormancy release and germination timing: altitude related risks from climate warming for the wild grapevine Vitis vinefera subsp. sylvestris. Annals of Botany 110: 1651-1660.
  • Seal*, C.E., Flores, J., Ceroni Stuva, A., Dávila Aranda, P., León-Lobos, P., Ortega-Baes, P., Galíndez, G., Aparicio-González, M.A., Castro Cepero, V., Daws*, M.I., Eason, M., Flores Ortiz, C.M., del Fueyo, P.A., Olwell, P., Ordoñez, C., Peñalosa Castro, I., Quintanar Zúñiga, R., Ramírez Bullón, N., Rojas-Aréchiga, M., Rosas, M., Sandoval, A., Stuppy*, W., Ulian*, T., Vázquez Medrano, J., Walter, H., Way*, M. & Pritchard*, H.W. (2009) The Cactus Seed Biology Database (release 1). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.