Pollination Part 2 – Saving pollen for later use

When all clones of a certain species flower at the same time, pollination is easy However if a single one is flowering and the others are still waiting we need another solution The other plant could be in another location, for example at a friends home Pollen normally have a lifetime in the order of days Therefore it would be nice to store them and keep them alive for later use There are two important factors that influence the lifetime of pollen That is Relative Humidity and Temperature Relative Humidity is one factor. The lower Relative Humidity is, the longer the pollen will live But pollen of some species do not like it at all to get under 10% humidity and will die because of that So we want to keep humidity low but not too low Temperature is the other important factor. The lower the better But if the humidity of the pollen is too high they may freeze to dead. So do not just put pollen into the freezer without lowering their humidity Here is a picture of the lifetime of pollen combining the two factors we discussed See how the lifetime can change from days into year. Note that this is a very general picture and certain species may show a different behavior But what we see is a kind of save zone, where pollen will live much longer, from weeks up to a year This save zone is around refrigerator temperatures and a relative humidity in the range 10-30 % So for temperature it is easy because a spot in the refrigerator will do Keeping the relative humidity between 10-30 % requires a solution Desiccants like Silica Gel will just absorb any humidity they can get till they are filled up So we better not use them Lucky enough late professor Thomas Boyle has described a reliable method to use The solution involves the use of glycerin (glycerol) Glycerin is a clear fluid used for making soap, cosmetics and many other things. It is available in for example drug stores It has the unique property to keep a balance between itself and the relative humidity surrounding it It will absorb humidity but just until it reaches a balance between itself and the surrounding To use it we need two containers. The small one (size 100 ml=3.5 ounce) fits into a bigger one that will be closed The small one is filled with about 75 ml=2.5 ounce of glycerin The big container will be closed with a airtight lid We will now show how Fill the small container with glycerin (about 75 ml=2.5 ounce) Place the small container into the bigger one After a day, relative humidity will drop down to about 15 %, which is fine It went slowly up to 25% in a year time in our case Time to collect some pollen! We like to use stamp bags to store the pollen That makes it possible to see what we have But of course there are other possible ways of storing. However it should not be humidity tight using the method described Everything should be labeled properly Another way of collecting pollen is by the use of cotton swabs We can save them in the same bags And add several in the same bag. That would allow us to take out part of the pollen quickly later on Of course label immediately again, as you may forget what it was The date is also of importance, because you may want to replace the pollen next year for new ones Now we save the packaged pollen into the larger container We may want to add a hygrometer to check now and then whether humidity is till OK Time to close the box And put it in the fridge Now the pollen can stay here for a long time and we can use them later on Later in time! We open the box and take some pollen out Close the box as soon as possible because the box and it’s content is relatively cold and will give condense at room temperature In this case we take the pollen out with a brush. As it is a small portion we dispose the stamp bag now The brush now is left for an hour to give the pollen the right temperature and humidity back A humid environment helps to get the humidity of the pollen back And ready for use! And do not forget to clean the brush after each use! Using the cotton swab is also easy. Just take one out and put the bag back Again close the box as soon as possible. In that way your glycerin will not have to be replaced so soon (in our case up to a year) Give the swab cotton an hour rest and pollinate! You may put the pollen into the freezer if you want to save them for a longer time There are other ways like desiccate the pollen and put them airtight in the freezer Of course feel free to try other methods. We wanted to give a easy method using save equipment reasonable available to most people saving pollen for at least months

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