Q. How do I go about ordering material?
A. We are happy to receive requests or enquiries in any form. There is a shopping cart function within our SeedStor infromation systen but a regular letter or a phone call is fine. The most usual way in which we now receive requests is via email to the following address []. All enquiries are logged and indexed which are tracked through their various stages until completion or being signed off.

Q. Is there a charge for this service?
A. There is no charge for this service for our main public collections. There are charges for some of our specialist collections on a cost recover basis. Information on charging is viewable and is clearly stated on any shopping cart submissions.

We are also obliged to pass on the costs of any phytosanitary certificate which requires a site visit by a health officer conducting a growing season inspection or where plants need to be grown specifically for destructive testing for a particular disease.

Q. Is there much paperwork involved?
A. That all depends on where you are based and the particulars of the job. We try to keep the paperwork to a minimum but if your country requires seed to be imported under an import permit and a phytosanitary certificate, we will need to see a copy of the import permit (in English) so we can work with our Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate to obtain the necessary documentation. We will use our experience to try to trouble shoot problems in advance to assist the speedy dispatch of the materials. We also undertake to keep you informed of the progress in obtaining the necessary paperwork and when the seeds have been dispatched complete with tracking number if sent by courier.

Q. Under what terms will I receive the material?
A. The material in the main public collections is free of IP. All materials sent out from the GRU are accompanied by a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA). The type of MTA depends on the nature of the material, the particular collection they are coming from and its intended use. Since 2009, the majority of materials including all the public collections are sent out are accompanied by the standard MTA (SMTA) of the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA)

  • If it is intended for research, breeding or education then it will be sent out with the SMTA of the ITPGRFA [pdf in /germplas].
  • If the material is for farm use and is not going to be passed on, then it will be issued under the JIC public collections MTA [pdf in /germplasm].
  • If the material is for industrial use it falls outside the scope of the SMTA and will be covered by Nagoya Protocol. While the implementation of the Protocol is under discussion, materials will be sent out under a JIC MTA for research purposes only. Any commercialisation issues will be sorted out with reference to the Convention for Biological Diversity.

Specialist collections may be subject to different MTA's but the relevant information is available within SeedStor for each collection as well as any associated MTA's.

Q. Am I free to pass the material on to others?
A. This very much depends on the particular MTA under which the seed was issued. Under the SMTA of the ITPGRFA, material passed on by the recipient must be done so under the same terms under which it was received. If the material is received with JIC MTA for research purposes only then you must notify the John Innes Centre and seek permission to pass it on.

Q. When should I expect to hear back?
A. You should expect to hear back within 2-3 working days of making your request. There are particular times of the year, especially May-August when we are particularly busy in the field but we will still be monitoring incoming enquiries and logging them into our system. If for some reason the time is longer than this then contact us again.

Q. Are there limits to the amount of material I can ask for?
A. In practice most requests are for a small number of lines. We are happy to meet larger requests of up to 100 accessions. Larger orders than this will require a stronger justification as they clearly take longer to prepare and might be sent in batches depending on the timetable. By all means ask and we shall try to accommodate your request.

Q. What information will I receive?
A. We will provide a short summary of passport data on all the material. There are embedded links to each entry in the supplied MTA that will link to the database entry for that particular stock within our SeedStor system. Not all germplasm has this facility as yet but this is very much work in progress. Longer versions and information on characteristics is available on request. In the future we plan to deliver more information as a default.

Q. What if I am ordering from outside the UK?
A. No problem but in addition to the Material Transfer Agreement the material may require a phytosanitary certificate to cover import conditions within your country. The phytosanitary certificate is prepared in consultation with the Plant Health legislation in operation within your country which might also stipulate the need for an import permit. Where we know of these requirements, or if we know of any restrictions in operation we will let you know so as to save time.

Q. Can you help with information as to what documentation I might need?
A. Where we know of specific documentation required we will point this out. Invariably you need to initiate these processes within your own country. We cannot do this on your behalf. There are requirements relating to the UK authorities that you are unlikely to be aware of and we will inform you of these so as to help make the operations as speedy as possible. A good example is the requirement for a copy of any import permit IN ENGLISH so that the phytosanitary certificate can be prepared, addressing any specific requirements that might be listed.

Q. What if I cannot obtain the necessary import documentation?
A. We will do all we can to assist but if the necessary documentation is not in place then we will not be able to send the material. The Plant Health Authority in the UK will not issue phytosanitary certificates without sight of a valid import permit where they know one is required. The GRU always adhere to the legislation of other countries and operate on a fully transparent and accountable basis.

Q. What if I do not know exactly what I want?
A. Not a problem. We are used to assisting with general enquiries who want to tap into our expertise for advice and guidance. We are happy to start a discussion with you starting with a general description of what you are looking for or setting out to achieve.

Q. How can I find out whether you have a particular variety or stock?
A. Our main public collections are all accessible via our web-searchable databases. Once you have selected the appropriate genus then type in the name of the variety into the ‘accession Name’ box. This performs a ‘soft search’ so will return all records that contain the string of characters you enter. If you cannot find what you are looking for then you are welcome to contact us and ask us whether we can help you in your search. Because we are in involved with a number of genetic resources network we have a range of search resources that we can quickly scan and provide you with information on other collections that might be able to assist.

Q. How confidential is this service?
A. Our service is fully confidential and we will not reveal your name or your contact details to any third party. We do collate returns on SMTA’s relating to the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture but the only details that are provided is restricted to country and sector (Research, breeding or Education and Training).

Q. Will details of my request be seen by others?
A. Details of the specific materials making up your request will not released or made available to any third parties.

Q. What advantages are there in using stocks from the GRU as opposed to another collection?
A. We aim to provide an efficient and speedy service. Where we feel there might be additional or more appropriate material relating to your request we will contact you to inform you of our thoughts. It is then up to you as to whether you accept this advice or not.

Q. Are you interested in feedback or data that I might be planning to collect?
A. Most definitely. We are always keen on receiving data or observations back on our material with a view to adding the data to our databases. We are planning to develop uploading facility to assist with this over the coming year.

Q. Are you interested in receiving new germplasm?
A. We are always interested in learning of any new material that might be available and we are happy to discuss whether it is appropriate that we introduce it into our collection or refer you to somewhere more appropriate. We are currently formalising our accessions policy which aims to identify unique aspects of the material or its history that make it a suitable candidate for long term conservation. Examples of categories of material we are interested in includes;

  • Heritage varieties
  • Variants or mutation that might have arisen spontaneously or were induced
  • Mapping populations

In the case of material collected from farmers or the wild, we require documentary evidence of prior informed consent (PIC) that the material in question was collected under the terms as outlined in the Convention for Biological Diversity. We do not accept material without the necessary consents as we recognise the importance of being able to provide the required evidence trail for users. The GRU aims to uphold the spirit of the Convention and the ITPGRFA wherever possible.

Q. Can I stipulate terms or specific groups that can access to my material once it is accepted into the GRU collections?
A. Material is only accepted into the GRU public collections on the understanding that it is free of IP and can be made available to anyone on request. You can request to be notified if material is sent out but the details of those requesting the material will not be disclosed.

Q. How is it best to store the material if I am not planning to sow it straight away?
A. Always tricky. Generally our advice when storing seeds is to keep them cool and dry is a vermin proof container. Keep the container in a place where the temperature is fairly constant and not subject to wild fluctuations of hot and cold. On this basis avoid places which catch the sun. Be advised that domestic fridges are generally not good for keeping seeds as the temperature might be low and fairly constant. The problem is that fridges are very damp and the high humidity is likely to cause fungi and moulds to start growing which can seriously affect the viability of the seeds. If you are planning to store the seeds in a fridge go for a double containment system ie. store the packets in two boxes with the inner one containing a drying agent and possibly an indicator.

Q. Can I reorder the same stocks if I run out of seed?
A. We maintain and distribute seeds of many tens of thousands of lines. We supply stocks on the understanding that the small samples we supply will be used by you to multiply up yourself to meet your future needs. In genuine situations where a failure of a crop is experiences which is outside your control we will re-supply. Where there are mitigating circumstances such as a student requiring material within a short timescale so it is impractical to multiply them up themselves, we will do all we can to assist without compromising our ability to meet other requests for the same materials.

Q. What does it mean that material is not available?
A. We are managing collections in excess of 45,000 different lines of seeds. When stock levels fall below the minimum and the material is being regenerated there may be a period of time in which the seed is not made available to users. Where possible we will advise as to alternative sources of particular lines if timing is an issue.