The Gatersleben Herbarium is part of the IPK’s research department “Genebank” Taxonomy and Evolution section. Its collection of nearly 447,000 specimens covers the spectrum of cultivated plants and related wild species found in temperate latitudes of the world. It is one of the largest such collections in the world and provides a valuable resource for comparative purposes, while also providing direct working material for the propagation of crops of interest to the research department “Genebank” as well as other researchers at IPK. The herbarium collaborates with both national and international partners in the form of loan and exchange of botanical collections, and is used by scientists both in Germany and elsewhere.
The extensive collection of sheets illustrating seeds/fruits (109,000 specimens) and cereal/grass spikes (57,000 specimens) contributes to the conservation and research of plant genetic resources carried out at Gatersleben; they are also available to external scientists as reference collections for the identification of plants and plant remains.
As part of Germany’s contribution to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, key samples are being digitally imaged in order to make them available online, an effort which has been financially supported by both of the Federal Ministry of Research and Education and German Science Foundation (DFG). In cooperation with Vienna’s Natural History Museum, digitised herbarium images, along with standardised nomenclatural and collection data, have been posted on the JACQ Virtual Herbaria Portal. The expectation is that as DNA analysis methodology improves, herbarium material will increasingly be exploitable in molecular genetic studies.