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Curtin researchers share secret seed recipe for better biodiversity

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Curtin University researchers have developed a seed-coating technology that can help bring degraded landscapes back to life and repair damaged ecosystems.

New research, published in the journal Seed Science and Technology today, will allow scientists and practitioners around the world to make their own designer seeds for ecological restoration, to create healthier soils, water, air and more vibrant biodiversity.

Co-author John Curtin Distinguished Professor Kingsley Dixon, from Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences, said his team of researchers at the ARC Centre for Mine Site Restoration had developed designer seed technologies, which can help bring degraded landscapes back to life when applied to native plant species.

“The air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat are the goods and services we get from healthy ecosystems. Yet in Australia and all over the world, natural ecosystems are destroyed at an unprecedented scale and rate,” Professor Dixon said.

“Bringing back healthy ecosystems is the aim of ecological restoration, and the most cost-effective way to achieve it is by planting native seeds. The problem is that seeds often fail because of poor soil and difficult conditions for plant germination in degraded landscapes.”

Lead researcher Mr Simone Pedrini, also from the School of Molecular and Life Sciences at Curtin, said the invention of seed coating, originally designed for agriculture, may be the solution for global restoration.

“Seed-coating is the covering of seeds with materials to improve protection, germination and seedling growth,” Mr Pedrini said.

“However, seed-coating recipes are owned and kept secret by private seed companies and frequently used for marketing purposes.”

“By re-developing seed-coating from scratch, researchers at Curtin University are the first to publish and make openly available instructions for developing seed coating protocols, which may have important environmental implications.”

The research team also included Research Fellow Dr Adam Cross and PhD candidate Khiraj Bhalsing, both from Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences.

The report, ‘Protocol Development Tool (PDT) for seed encrusting and pelleting’ can be found online here.

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