Dr Rosaland Fisher, Dr Chantelle Jay and Dr Howard Lee, Horticulture tutors from Hadlow College, took their classes of Commercial Horticulture (BSc and FdSc students) on a day visit to the Millennium Seed Bank and Heritage Gardens at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew’s, Wakehurst Place. The fascinating trip took place so that Hadlow students could learn about the work of the seed bank and how it can help both general and commercial horticulture, focusing on sustainability and climate change.

The Millennium Seed Bank hides an underground collection of over 2.4 billion seeds from around the world, with 38,000 species stored in an underground vault large enough to fit 38 double-decker buses. On arrival the students were met by two of the volunteer education guides and taken to the above ground exhibition part of the bank. They were then guided through the seed collection and treatment process to ready the seeds for storage and saw several staff engaged in seed quality analysis and germination testing. Next, they were taken to the actual vault (only accessible to educational tours, not the public) which is a climate-controlled bunker capable of withstanding a plane crash (Wakehurst is close to Gatwick).  Here they saw the storage rooms, held at -20C and the range of seeds held there.

Dr Rosaland Fisher, Lecturer in Horticulture, said of the trip: “This was a fascinating visit which tied in very well with the focus on sustainability in commercial horticulture which runs throughout both our FdSc and BSc degree programmes, students were very engaged and learnt a lot from this visit.”

The group also toured the site to see some of the plants propagated from seeds held within the bank. This included a selection of ash cuttings to assess resistance to ash dieback disease, a range of seed-grown monkey puzzle trees and some Wollemi pines**.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a non-departmental public body in the United Kingdom sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. An internationally important botanical research and education institution. The Millennium Seed Bank forms part of Kew Gardens, and is set in a specially constructed facility in the elegant grounds of Wakehurst Place in Sussex.

**The Wollemi Pine is one of the world’s oldest and rarest plants, with less than 100 adult trees known to exist in the wild, the Wollemi pine is now the focus of extensive research to safeguard its survival.

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