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Seed collection unearthed at EIT Hawke’s Bay Campus

April 1, 2024

Environmental Management Lecturer Dr Glen Robertshaw with an expansive seed collection dating back to the late 70s.

More than 1000 seed samples dating back to the 70s have been unearthed at EIT Hawke’s Bay Campus in Taradale.

The collection features seed varieties of different sizes, shapes and colours from around the world.

Environmental Management Lecturer Dr Glen Robertshaw says it is a thing of beauty.

“As part of the unpacking and moving back into our building we have come across a curious wooden box with about 1000 seed samples from all around the world.”

Two index books that came with the collection provided the collector’s name A J England, and details of where the seeds came from between 1978 and 1984.

Robertshaw asked long serving staff members who knew nothing about it, and an internet search yielded nothing. With the name, he turned to the White Pages.

“I wanted to see if there were any Englands around in Hastings, so I looked through the White Pages and just rang a few people. Eventually his son, Darren England, rang me back.”

Darren England says he knew his father, who passed away in 2016, had donated the collection to EIT and after the floods, wondered what had happened to it.

“It’s nice to see the legacy is carrying on.”

A J England pictured in the 1980s in his office at Wrightson NMA Grain Store, Omahu Road. Photo/Supplied.

His father worked in the grain and seed industry and upon moving from Australia to Hawke’s Bay, ran the grain store for Wrightson NMA.

“I remember when we were young, we’d be driving somewhere, and he’d stop the car and jump a fence and grab some seeds off something. He was always on the lookout for odd seeds.”

Darren says his father made the wooden stands and case from scratch.

“I think it was too good to get rid of it and none of the family wanted it so he thought EIT could use it. He just wanted it to stay local I think.”

Horticulture and Environmental Management Lecturer Gerard Henry says the collection is “fairly unique”.

“I mean, it may not have been an untypical thing to have taken part in back in the 70s and even in the 80s. But for it to have survived and for us to find it now is pretty rare I’d say.”

Robertshaw, who teaches biosecurity and soil science courses, says the research opportunities are endless. He has also spoken to Massey University which has an extensive seed collection.

“We can do a lot from looking at the viability of the seeds after all this time to looking at DNA changes over time between varieties then and the varieties now. And at the very least it’s a teaching resource for us.”

EIT offers level 5 and 6 of the NZ Diploma in Environmental Management, as well as a Bachelor of Applied Science (Biodiversity Management).