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€3 million project underway to enhance wild plant seed industries

Various wild flower seeds (courtesy NASSTEC project)
"We welcome the responsibility to help ensure that essential skills in wild plant and seed ecology are not lost.

A new EU training-partnership including the James Hutton Institute aims to promote wild plant conservation underpinned by the use of native plant seeds. The programme will train a new generation of higher level researchers, improve the connections between research institutes and native seed producers and allow the provision of high quality seeds vital for environmental restoration.

The Native Seed Science, Technology and Conservation (NASSTEC) initiative is funded by an EU-Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN) award made to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the James Hutton Institute – and to Scotland’s Scotia Seeds, the leading commercial partner. To complete the EU partnership, two Italian research institutions and a Spanish and Dutch seed company are also part of the initiative. The National Trust for Scotland and seven other associate partners will help to integrate the resulting research, production and use of seeds of native plants.

There is a growing understanding of the need to increase biodiversity by using the seeds of plants native to the area in which they are used. Projects using native plants range from agricultural settings to urbanised and industrial sites, from agri-environment schemes to the Olympic Park in London and the use of wildflowers by local authorities and community initiatives to encourage bees and butterflies. Large amounts of native seeds for wildflower meadows are needed for ecological restoration essential in developments such as road-building and wind farms. The availability of high quality native wildflower seed is vital to balance the impacts of land use and climate change, in particular the loss of wildflower grasslands that are so precious to Europe’s environmental heritage. NASSTEC will ensure that there is native seed science in Europe that will support the production and use of native seed.

Dr Pietro Iannetta, molecular ecologist at the James Hutton Institute, said: “Support for this project from the EU-Marie Curie fund endorses that fact the value of wild plants extends beyond the aesthetic and cultural. The wild plant species which some would call ‘weeds’ are of real commercial value too, since they are essential components of healthy and resilient habitats.

“The role of the James Hutton Institute is to co-ordinate the project training elements, and we welcome the responsibility to help ensure that essential skills in wild plant and seed ecology are not lost.”

NASSTEC will run for four years and will create 11 generously funded Early Stage Researcher (ESR) positions, to be registered as PhD projects at the University of Pavia, Italy, but based with the project partners. An additional Experienced Researcher (ER) will support the dissemination of the research. These new, highly trained experts will develop the understanding of native seed for conservation and restoration projects and will form an ongoing network and pool of expertise in native seed science which will form the basis of conservation projects across Europe.

NASSTEC is currently advertising the fellowships at, and is led by Dr Costantino Bonomi at Museo delle Scienze di Trento.

Notes for editors

The EU's Marie Curie Actions provide grants at all career stages from postgraduate level to encourage international mobility among Europe's best researchers. The EU will allocate more than €4.5 billion under the scheme between 2007 and 2013. A total of 50,000 researchers have been supported by Marie Curie Actions since 1996. Marie Curie Actions have played a key role in the European Research Area. They are managed by the Research Executive Agency (REA), a funding body created by the EU to manage parts of the European Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), one of the pillars of the Europe 2020 strategy for sustainable and inclusive growth.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew was founded in 1759, and declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. Alongside Kew Gardens in London, RBG Kew has a second country garden based at Wakehurst Place which is the home of RBG Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank. As well as being one of London’s top visitor attractions, RBG Kew is also a world leader in plant science and conservation. Our work helps to discover and describe the world’s plant and fungal diversity, safeguard the world's plant life for our future, promote the sustainable use of plants and inspire an appreciation of plants and the environment.

Scotia Seeds is a leading UK producer of seeds of native plants specialising in the production of seeds traceable to their original wild Scottish populations. Through work partly funded by the Scottish Government the company has pioneered the improvement of all aspects of quality for seeds of native species traded in the UK.

Contacts at the UK institutions are as follows:

At the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: Professor Hugh W. Pritchard, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Wellcome Trust Millennium Building, Wakehurst Place, Ardingly, West Sussex RH17 6TN. Email:, phone: +44 (0)1444 894140.  

At Scotia Seeds: Mr Giles Laverack, Managing Director, phone: 01356 626425, web page:

At the James Hutton Institute: Dr Pietro P.M. Iannetta, James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee DD2 5DA, Scotland UK, phone: + 44 (0) 1382 568873 (office direct), mobile: + (0)7736307189, Skype: pete.iannetta.

Press and media enquiries: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

Printed from /news/%E2%82%AC3-million-project-underway-enhance-wild-plant-seed-industries on 22/02/24 07:49:33 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.