DELEP was established in June 1988 by Dr. R. Phillip Upchurch as a joint project of the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. DELEP was and remains unique in focusing on wild species of Fabaceae from dry regions. In 1989, seedlings were first planted in our first evaluation field at the UA Campus Agricultural Center, and some of these trees are still growing today.
Over the past three decades, the DELEP seed bank has grown to include seeds from over 4000 individual collections of more than 1400 species from 67 countries. In 1996, DELEP began backing up our seed collections at the USDA-ARS National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, CO, and now over 1000 of our accessions are currently backed up there. In 2011 and 2012, 135 of our accessions were deposited in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, indicative of the importance of DELEP’s collections to the world.
In 2014, DELEP received accreditation from the North American Plant Collections Consortium (now called the Plant Collections Network). DELEP is the first seed bank to receive this accreditation. This recognizes that DELEP is committed to maintaining the highest standards of excellence in collections management and has demonstrated a long-term commitment to global efforts towards plant conservation.
Since 2018, DELEP has been administered through the University of Arizona Herbarium (ARIZ) in the School of Plant Sciences.