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A long term seed storage experiment with rye was started in 1978 in the Gatersleben genebank. Seeds of 3.7 and 5.5% moisture content were kept at −15, 0 and 10 °C in hermetically sealed glasses filled with air, CO2, N2, and also evacuated. The initial germination was 72% and germination was tested after 1, 5, 15 and 17 years of storage. After 17 years at −15 °C the smallest losses in germination and smallest interactions with the gas atmosphere were observed. At 0 and 10ˆC there were greater, but variable losses in germination and inconsistent interactions with the gas atmosphere. Generally, air promoted and N2 reduced germination loss.