Seeds in South Africa, Prof. Berjak
Wed, 16 Feb 2005 19:38:48 PST
Hi Gang,

This past month Science Magazine carried an article by Particia Berjak a 
professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (Durban, South Africa).  She has 
spent her career studying seed biology and has made major contributions in our 
understandings of germination, seed storage, seed dormancy, seed cell biology, 

She has studied the ability of some seeds to remain viable for many years 
when stored dry and cool (orthodox seeds), and she has also provided insight into 
mechanisms of those seeds which do not store well and which are harmed by 
drying.  Seeds that cannot be stored in a dehydrated state are called 
recalcitrant seeds, or unstorable seeds.  They may have a shelf life of weeks, months, or 
perhaps a year or two.  

Recalcitrant seed present real problems in efforts to create seed banks 
because the seeds cannot be stored for years; orthodox seeds can be stored for many 
years under dry and cold (freezing) conditions.  Dr. Berjak has made some 
progress understanding why seeds are recalcitrant as well as how botanists may 
overcome recalcitrancy.  One imperative driving her research is that many plant 
species of South Africa have recalcitrant seeds (e.g., Crinum spp., most 
palms, avocado), and the country uses seed banking as one way to preserved its 
flora including agricultural plants and plants used for healing.  

I have placed the article online, and will leave it a while for those of you 
wishing to read it.  It is great reading because it tells about science in a 
country that is home to many bulb species, and because it describes Dr. 
Berjak's ongoing  efforts to solve a mystery of biology.  

Protector of the Seeds:  Science, Jan. 2005 vol. 307:47-49.  


Conroe Joe
Daytime 70-75 F, nights 45-50 F, no precipitation for over 3 days.  

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