OSSSU - Orchid Seed Science And Sustainable Use

I became an amateur orchid grower as a teenager and have continued to work on this plant family ever since, and with a special interest in the lithophytic Cattleyas. During my under graduate studies in Agronomy, I focused on plant breeding and tissue culture. I started my collection of this genus during the 1990’s and have been successful in growing some 75% of them, and have been very keen to propagate as many as possible. A number of these species are endemic to particular states in Brazil, where their survival in the wild is threatened, and some are on the verge of extinction. I married Ceci in 1996, who like me is an agronomist, but with a specialization in Seed Technology. We both did our PhD studies on Seed Biology; my thesis was presented in 1999, while Ceci’s was presented in 2001. In 2004, we were invited to participate at the Second International Orchid Conservation Conference in Sarasota, where we presented our data on seed storage and germination from many tropical orchid species. In 2006, we received an invitation to be part of the OSSSU project, and joined in 2008. We both find orchid seeds a fascinating subject for research, as these unique tiny seeds still present a ‘blank book’ in the understanding of their physiology, despite their existence in almost all environments where they can be found growing in habitats ranging from the soil through to the heights of the tree canopy. We are working in a Crop Production team in an Agronomy college, where a key objective is to understand and support sustainable conservation of orchid germplasm under both in situ and ex situ conditions. The questions these issues raise has helped enormously in attracting students to join us in this research. We are currently leading a team of students researching topics ranging from pollen viability and pollination, to seed maturation, storage and biochemistry. A recent result of our work was a methodology paper for the OSSSU project for viability testing of seeds using tetrazolium.

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