, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 206-214

Conservation In vitro of threatened plants—Progress in the past decade

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Summary

In vitro techniques have found increasing use in the conservation of threatened plants in recent years and this trend is likely to continue as more species face risk of extinction. The Micropropagation Unit at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK (RBG Kew) has an extensive collection of in vitro plants including many threatened species from throughout the world. The long history of the unit and the range of plants cultured have enabled considerable expertise to be amassed in identifying the problems and developing experimental strategies for propagation and conservation of threatened plants. While a large body of knowledge is available on the in vitro culture of plants, there are limited publications relating to threatened plant conservation. This review highlights the progress in in vitro culture and conservation of threatened plants in the past decade (1995–2005) and suggests future research directions. Works on non-threatened plants are also included wherever methods have applications in rare plant conservation. Recalcitrant plant materials collected from the wild or ex situ collections are difficult to grow in culture. Different methods of sterilization and other treatments to establish clean material for culture initiation are reviewed. Application of different culture methods for multiplication, and use of unconventional materials for rooting and transplantation are reviewed. As the available plant material for culture initiation is scarce and in many cases associated with inherent problems such as low viability and endogenous contamination, reliable protocols on multiplication, rooting, and storage methods are very important. In this context, photoautotrophic micropropagation has the potential for development as a routine method for the in vitro conservation of endangered plants. Long-term storage of material in culture is challenging and the potential applications of cryopreservation are significant in this area. Future conservation biotechnology research and its applications must be aimed at conserving highly threatened, mainly endemic, plants from conservation hotspots.