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Saving Seed Successfully

Bob Gregory


This class will look at fundamentals for producing and saving high-quality seed from your own farm/garden.


Bob Gregory

Owner/Director of Berea Gardens Agriculture Center in Minnora, WV


  • January 17, 2020
    4:00 PM
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I want to encourage people. With some information here that's can be a little bit disturbing and a disturbing fact is that most of the seed production in the world today is controlled by 3 companies these companies used to be 6 companies a short while ago but last year bear Corp bought out on Santo and they bought out the s.f. Dupont and Dow Agro Sciences were purchased by. Well actually combined and formed a company called core t.v. and Kim China bought out the other large seed company Syngenta So we have today a core Tiva chem China and the largest by far is bear company that controls about 90 percent of the seed production in America and throughout the world today now when I'm talking about a seed company what I'm talking about is a company that actually produces seeds not just companies that sell seeds. Many of you have probably gotten mail order catalogs from a variety of different sources Peaceful Valley Farm Supply Harris the company Johnny's seed company these are marketing companies that are not actually seed producers and the marketing companies are at the discretion of what the seed producing companies choose to produce for what they have to market so in many ways the fact that these companies are only 3 companies and when you buy your seed packet it doesn't say Court t.v. or bear or or chems Hine on it it's as you know has has some other name on it but the seed produced inside that packet has roots that lead back to a consolidated group that consists of those 3 companies this chart here shows the consolidation that has taken place within the seed industry from the 199622018 and I know you can't see this really clearly but the point I'm trying to make with this is that each of those little bubbles is was a seed producing company that was bought out by another seed producing company and all these links lead back to those 3 giants that I was showing you just a moment ago those 3 giants have a vested interest in one thing and one thing only has nothing to do with nutrition has nothing to do with providing you with the varieties of seeds that you would like to grow has everything to do with satisfying sure holders and profit. And for that reason they are influencing the production of seeds in a way that is depriving us of more and more potentially good varieties for home gardeners and concentrating more and more on varieties that are geared towards mainstream commercial agriculture and mainstream commercial agriculture likewise is concerned about one thing and one thing only that has nothing to do with taste or nutrition or the palatability of their product it has to do with yield and as a consequence. Because of the nature of the characteristics that these seed companies are breeding for these days the nutritional value most of our foods is plummeting dramatically done some seminars previously on that topic and if you'd like to look at some of the past at Agora. Sessions and listen to some of the audio that the wonderful folks at audio verse have recorded for us you'll find some of that information available to you there I'm not going to dwell on that today my point is that our choices are becoming more and more limited and this doesn't I'm not just concerns here about the the g.m.o. seeds are not just concerned about hybrid seeds but I'm also concerned about open poa needed seeds because those large seed companies control most of the seed stock and many of the producers involved in replicating that open pollinated seed too and there is a risk and it's been manifest a few times in the last few years even open poem dated varieties that were once available to us going extinct commercially speaking they're no longer available to us which is an added incentive for us to produce seed ourselves and to hold on to those varieties don't take for granted that just because it's an old open pollinated variety that was available last year that it's going to be available next year too because once these large companies make a marketing decision to go in one direction rather than in the direction that would would provide you with the seed you want they're not contracting with growers anymore to produce that seed and that seed buying goes extinct extinct. What does that mean that means no more available not just next year but for ever and reality do you know that 90 percent 90 percent of the vegetables that were grown at the turn of the last century are now extinct we have a very very limited gene pool today with which to work in developing new varieties and new characteristics of plants and very few of those are open pollinated varieties now do you all know what I mean by an open pollinated variety I think we need some discussion on this and let me 1st say that when it comes to buying our seed I'm getting a little ahead of myself here it's very important that you buy seed from a commercial growers supplier not someone that is marketing mail order in packets not the seed rack down at the local nursery or the hardware store and part of the reason for that is that seeds have varying degrees of quality that you can't necessarily see but are very present within the seed seeds are graded and the best quality seed has the highest density if you have a seed of a similar size and one weighs more than another that extra weight is extra energy within that seed that is going to lead to a better quality plant and as home gardeners we can't discern that difference but when that seed is being processed and cleaned by the company that's going to market it to you they actually separate the seeds by that characteristic by its specific gravity and the poor quality seed has a lower specific gravity and that ends up in a little tiny envelope with a really pretty picture on it with some instructions for how you are going to plant it and marketed as a mass consumer item. The higher quality seat is soon to commercial growers in part because if you're a commercial grower and you know what you're doing with the seed you're going to have the capacity to discern whether that seed has a good quality or not based on its germination rate based on the characteristics and the quality of the seedling that is produced from that seed or as a homeowner on the other hand with a packet of lousy seed doesn't know when he's planted that whether it's his fault or the seeds fault and easily blames himself so buy from a commercial grower supplier and buy a commercial grower what I'm referring to are typically mail order companies there's a list of them on my website Bria gardens dot org Gee if you want to find some of the seed companies that provide good quality seed to commercial growers don't buy your seat at the hardware store I was talking with a young man yesterday who grew a field of sunflowers from seed that he had saved and he had very poor results and part of the reason he had poor results was because he bought his seed at a local farm co-op and bolt and didn't really realise the variation in quality and seed. The other thing I want to mention here is I always plant multiple varieties of the same crop in my fields if I plant lettuce I plant 5 to 7 different varieties of lettuce if I plant broccoli I'm planting 4 or 5 different varieties of broccoli and I do this with every crop I grow and this is partly for food security because one year you may find that one specific variety of seed performs very well the next year one of the other seeds that didn't do so well that 1st year may outperform it it just is a variation in the nature of our dynamic system in which our crops grow we have varying weather conditions varying pass pressure. There's varying disease pressures and it simply makes sense not to put all of your genetics seed genetics seed in one basket so to speak so grow a multiple of varieties and I grow a combination of both open pollinated and hybrid varieties and I want to talk about this a little bit because there's actually quite a bit a prejudice among some traditional and organic growers that hybrid varieties are not something that we should be growing now I want to explain this to you and talk to you a little bit about this because there's absolutely no justifiable reason why on this day we can't make use of some hybrid seeds 2 for very good reasons and the other thing I want to say yes to you is that you order your seeds now I'm going to talk later in this presentation about how to store your seeds. Even for long periods of time and I think it's important that while we still have some of these wonderful right these available to us that we need to take advantage of that and get our seed stocks now in the course of the last 10 years there have been no less than 15 varieties of seed that I used to grow that I really like that. You know found that were very well adapted to my location and my growing conditions and all 15 of those are no longer available commercially and this list is growing very rapidly just as you saw the consolidation of all the seed companies taking place very rapidly the introduction of new varieties is as steady but it's not keeping up with the list of right is that are being dropped off of their lists on an annual basis you mean fineness true this year when you go to order your seeds to discover that what was. Working for you over the last few years may no longer be available so order them now. I want to talk a little bit about the difference between an open pollinated variety and a hybrid variety now most of our heirloom seeds or heritage seeds are simply open pollinated varieties so those are marketing terms for an open pollinated variety and when it isn't open pollinated variety Well plants produce seed because that's the sexual means for plants reproduction and bisexual what I mean is there's 2 parts necessary to produce a seed we have a female part which is the ovum or the egg and that's inside the pistol of the flower at the lower part of the flower there the male portion of the of the seed producing process is the point which is produced on the stamens and the answers around that pistol in an open poa needed variety of plant we have a population of plants that is essentially genetically identical each of these flowers here are all genetically very very similar they're not exactly identical but they're very very similar and when pollen from one of these any one of these flowers I'm sorry fertilizes the egg in the other flower or if the flower pollinates itself that the characteristics of the OS spring of that cross will be very very consistent almost genetically identical to its parent in an open pollinated variety we have a different circumstance. Sorry in a hybrid variety we have a different circumstance. In a hybrid variety we have a planet of similar species now this is what distinguishes hybrid. Cross-pollination versus genetic modification it has to be the same species we're not crossing Aardvarks with. With avocados here we take parents of the same species that have different characteristics and the hybrid process is an attempt to derive Osprey ng that has enhanced characteristics from the strengths of both parents in this case we've got a seed parent that has a large pink flower and a poem parent that has a smaller flower but by color petals and perhaps our goal might be to achieve an offspring that has a large flower shape with that by color characteristic and in this process pollen from the pollen parent fertilizes the pistol from the seed parent and then the 1st offspring of that cross is a combination of those 2 characters that expresses itself with the dominant genes which in this case gives us a large flower with bicolor petals. Now this is done in a couple of ways to ensure that the pollen parent fertilizes the seed parent and that the seed parent doesn't fertilize itself it can be done a couple of ways it can be done by hand by cutting the stamens off of that seed parent so that only the Po and parent can fertilize it and this is a traditional method used in corn breeding often where those of you from corn country of probably seen corn seed fields where they go through and they d. tassel the female Rose of the seed parent rose and lead the tassels on the pollen parent plant so that the pollen from one parent fertilizes the other parent and the other parent as fertilize itself in Gander stand what I'm saying here the other way they accomplish this is by selecting a seed parent that is pollen sterile meaning that the pollen on that seed parent plant will not fertilize that flower it won't fertilize anything else it's sterile poem doesn't have any characteristics so I put these 2 varieties in the field side by side and I know that all of the seed parent flowers have been poa needed by the pollen parent plant if you follow Me Ok Now the reality is that this f. one offspring occurs all the time in nature do you know that there's not a single article of food that we eat today not a single item that any of you can name at any of you has ever consumed that is anything like the food that was on this planet just a 1000 years ago or even our even a few 100 years ago all plants all of our seeds nuts fruits grains everything that we eat vegetables has undergone this process in nature over the course of time. Well if that's the case how do we get these open pollinated varieties that reproduce true to type every year the way that occurs is through a process and this is a process I want to walk you through 1st of all I want to say that there's a lot of prejudice among some circles that we should only plant open pollinated varieties because they're more healthful they're more pure in some spiritual sense because they're more like what was back in Eden and I want to dispel that myth because that's not true at all not even a little bit true there are some reasons to avoid hybrid seed but you better know what they are and that's why I want to share this with you today if we take the offspring of that 1st hybrid cross the f. one that stands for 1st filling olor 1st family relationship and we allow it to sow pollinator ponied itself to come to the f. 2 generation the outcome is an unknown outcome meaning that that plant can be better than the f. one in some characteristics it can be worse than the f. one in some characteristics we don't know what we're going to get and this is the reason why most of us don't save seeds from f one hybrids and plant them the next year because we don't really know what we're going to get it could be better it could be worse at it's possible to that that we won't get seed because that recessive gene for pollen sterility in the in the female. Egg parent made kicking into and it may not pollinate itself at all. But if we then self pone that f. 2 generation will go to the f 3 generation where the plant again with very dissimilar characteristics from its f one. Parent back at the original cross but something really interesting happens in this process as we get down to the f. 6 and f. 7 generations of this self fertilisation of the hybrid offspring the genetic characteristics that are dominant start to stabilize and by the f. 7 generation we have a now a new variety of an open pollinated parent that will reproduce true to type and this is the case with virtually all of our heirloom and heritage and open pollinated seeds today all of them at some point in their background had a period of hybridisation involved so there is no of sensual virtue in staying with open pollinated varieties with one exception of characteristic and that is that it will reproduce true to type the following anybody surprised by that Ok you're pretty a pretty intelligent group here you've studied this issue a little bit the reasons for why that initial original hybrid took place are usually considerations for disease resistance for climate at apt ability whether it's resistant to drought or resistant to to wet conditions or it can be for yield. All of those characteristics are typically things that we care about as home gardeners to we want something that's going to yield Well we want something that is adaptable well to our circumstances and conditions and we want something that's going to have resistance to pests and diseases especially if we're trying to grow organically and unfortunately many of the traditional organic. Growers rely on some of the heirloom seeds that are open pollinated varieties that have very poor disease and insect resistance and for those of you that are convicted the Geneva pirate only open ponied it varieties I want to put this question to you I grew a variety of open pollinated tomato called Rutgers it's been around for a long time to great tomato for canning it's got really good flavor but it's very susceptible to late blight and I also grow hybrid variety called celebrity now celebrity is a hybrid that is pretty resistant to. To fight off terror to late last night and if I grow these 2 plants side by side in my wet moist fields in West Virginia I'm going to find that in the middle of July when the nighttime temperatures are up around 80 degrees and the humidity staying at 70 to 80 percent that Rutgers tomato is going to become badly infested with late blight and in some instances produce very few tomatoes whereas the celebrity that has resistance to late blight will perform quite well and all will be able to harvest a number of fruits and even if it's true and I'm not saying that it is but even if it is true that the open pony needed variety is more nutritious if I'm only getting one potato one tomato off of that plant and in place of maybe 20 pounds off of the hybrid plant which one of my really getting more nutrition from. So there's value in using hybrid seed appropriately and for the right reasons and in selecting for the right reasons so I strongly suggest that we plant both a mix of hybrid and open pollinated righties Now the reason I plant most of the open pollinated varieties that I have has to do with the fact that if I save that hybrid seed and plant at the next year I don't really know what I'm going to get. But I think too there's an opportunity there for us to do a lot of research and discovering developing new varieties I have done this I just don't rely on it for my food supply and we have variety of squash that we have come to really enjoy it's a variety of coaches squash called sunshine that is a hybrid variety I have to buy the seed every year and the seeds kind of expensive so I've been to experimenting a little bit with out over the years to see what will happen after 7 generations of selfing and see if I can get some of those same flavor characteristics it's really flavorful that's one of the things I like about it to see if I can carry that through to an open pollinated variety so they don't have to spend so much and buy that seed every year and at about the f. 3 generation it looks very different than its parent it's a green squash instead of an orange squash it's still the same shape in some instances with squash varieties all even change shape on you. But it is not something that's more desirable than the hybrid yet but I've got a few more generations to go before that thing settles out in the 7th generation to determine whether or not I've got a new squash variety that will be useful to me or not so there's room for experiment ing with hybrid seeds but you don't want to rely on hybrid seeds for food security that's where we do need to rely on the open pollinated varieties so I just suggest to you is something that you want to you know you want to might want to consider in terms of of doing some experimenting in your gardens. When it comes to saving our seed. The 1st thing that is important is that we need to dedicate strong healthy plants for seed production now what is a seed a seed is basically a little capsule of energy and that capsule of energy needs to be really strong and have lots of energy stored in it if it's going to perform well for us and produce good plants if we wait and simply harvest parts of we'll use the lettuce crop for example if you're you know pulling leaves off of your lettuce or leaves off of your kill plant that's probably a more likely circumstance and then after that plant gets all stressed out and all the energy is gone and it bolts and starts to produce seed that's not a good candidate for seed production and unfortunately that's what a lot of home gardeners do that is waiting when they you know with their harvested what they want and when the flower bolts the plant bolts and they can't eat any more of it then they leave the rest of it to say their seed from that's a really really really bad idea and the reason for that is that the plants energy you've consumed and the plant available energy for that seed is really really minimal so you get really lousy really poor quality seed from a practice like that so I strongly suggest that you dedicate plants in your garden for producing seed and that you take care of those plants. As diligently or even more diligently than you do the rest of your crop make sure that it's got plenty of plant nutrition make sure it doesn't go through more Easter stress you know out west when I worked with seed companies that were producing vegetable seed their cultural costs were heart far higher than the costs of the people that were growing spend it for example for marketing versus spend it's that was grown for seed production for that reason you wanted to produce. A really good quality plant with lots of see also want to select seeds that have no virus or select a plant that has no indication of virus symptoms at all no indications of disease and some insect damage might be acceptable but only minimal insect damage Now typically what I do is I select. Shortly after planting if I'm producing lettuce seed for example I plant my talked earlier today about my block planting system and I will try to select Maybe if I don't need any more than 4 plants of the lettuce variety to produce all the seed that I need for 5 years so I select 4 plants on one end of the block or the other that are strong and healthy and I just leave them in place on harvest the rest of the crop and leave them in place and tend them for a period of time and that way I don't interrupt all of my. All of my other crop rotations or my cultivation practices I don't plant plants specifically for seed very often I simply use blocks of crops that I've already planted for commercial use and I just leave the seed bearing years seed producing plants there for a much longer period of time the other thing is that we need to be sure if we have multiple crops growing and this is the case for most of us with small market farms or our home gardeners we're diversified and what we grow we have to have a form of secure isolation so that we don't inadvertently create our own hybrid and there are 2 ways to isolate things one is by distance and the other is by time and on our small farms and in your backyard gardens. Distance can kind of be a challenge and my preferred method for separating crops so that they don't cross pollinate and they don't produce inadvertent hybrids is to use time now I grow as I said earlier multiple varieties of the same crop so if I'm growing a lettuce crop for seed and my going to have a problem if I have you know if I've got in that one greenhouse where I'm saving a variety for seed I'm a going to have a problem if I grow 6 or 8 different varieties of lettuce and there. And I will have a problem I'm seeing some heads nod Yes Ok why what I have a problem with that I plan I'm all at the same time it's not going to create a problem for me because I'm going to harvest all those other crops long before they produce flowers and are susceptible to cross pollination correct Ok now different circumstance if I need to varieties of lettuce seed and I try to do that in the same greenhouse and I going to have a problem if I do that at the same time yes I will so in that circumstance would all typically do is a grow one variety in the spring and one in the fall for seed production. And still not interrupting my production pattern with what I'm doing so I use time that way I'm growing 3 different bright Ryan plan to grow 3 different varieties of corn this year I have the 2 varieties of field corn I'm going to grow Actually I'll be growing 4 because we like a little sweet corn too but I have 2 varieties of field corn a variety of sweet corn and a and a popcorn that I want to grow this year and my farm is only you know a couple of acres it's maybe a little over a quarter of a mile from one end of my planting area to the other and with the winds that we get I can't be secure the distance is going to be enough. To protection to keep pollen from moving that far we get 6070 mile an hour winds sometimes during thunderstorms during a period of pollination so what I have to do then is stagger my planting so that they're not all in tassel at the same time so that the have viable Polen at different periods of time through the growing season to isolate that particular variety. The other common mistake that people make is that they harvest seed long before it's mature. We need to ensure full seed maturity before we harvest the seed this is the most common mistake that I see people make even if they're harvesting the puny little seed off of their tail plant that they've already stripped 2 pounds of kale half of in this weeds are small and have no energy you know but the other mistake that's made is it's not fully ripe and in the case of lettuce for example it takes about 3 times as long to produce seed as it does to produce a head less so it's going to sit in the garden for a much longer period of time for one thing and we have to let that plant fully ripe and let that seed fully ripen to the point where the plant starts to die back the seed panic over the PAs at the lettuce eatery and actually start to split open on their own and when about 10 percent of those pods split open that's when we know that we've got the right right binning of our seed to harvest it and ensure that it's fully developed and fully mature same thing holds true for 4 fruits that we harvest with our veggies we want to make sure that about 10 percent of those pods are popped open and with fruits we want them to ripen far past the period of time where they would be edible with tomatoes for example I allow them to stay on the vine until the tomato actually starts to ferment a little bit on the vine or maybe even the tomato will fall off the mine. Now fruits are a little bit different in and in the sense that we don't need to dedicate an entire plant to produce tomatoes seed for example but I still want to follow the same criteria far as making sure I've got a really good healthy plant that I select a fruit for the seed production that I need that is uniform that is of good quality that is you know one of the stronger fruits on the plant and usually at that point what I'll do is I'll tie a little ribbon or something around that fruit so nobody comes along and picks it and eats it before the seeds produce and I tend to keep the the other fruit on the plant that I am harvesting at a minimum meaning that we harvest vigorously and we even discard some of the green fruit on that plant so the plant isn't bearing a huge load of fruit that creates stress on the plant a lot of an extra energy goes into that seeds that make sense so the idea here is that you want to select fruits that are very strong and viable but you don't need to designate a plant just for your seed production I get plenty of seeds out of a couple of tomatoes I don't need a couple of tomato plants to produce all the seed that I need and these things need to get really ripe with melons you want to wait until the melons are are actually splitting open in the field with cucumbers or squash or something like that they're going to be far past the point where you'd want to eat them I usually wait until they get pissy with my zucchini that I save for seed for example they're using the size of baseball bats are bigger and all those seeds will germinate at a younger stage it's far more viable and far more. Likely to give you a good strong plant if it is fully mature in collecting seed the way we go about it with most of our vegetables. And I'll use lettuce as an example is we've harvested now all of the lettuce that was in that bed it's probably re planted with another crop maybe even a 3rd crop by the time we harvest the seed the lettuce plant itself will now have a large flowering stock on it that has self pollinated seeds within the pods that are on that stock the lettuce plant itself will start to die back it will start to turn brown when the leaves start turning brown stop watering it all you're going to do is encourage fungal disease in the root system if you continue to water it has it's done its job it's gone through its life cycle it's produced seed now the plant is dying back in the seeds or they're continuing to ripen and when about 10 percent of the pods have started to split open it's time to harvest that seed and what I do when I harvest seed is I go out to the garden with a large plastic bag we use for food bags for a lot of the other product processes on our farm so I just use a clear plastic food bag that's about the size of a 30 gallon trash can bag but a trash can bad would work alright too for this and I put the trash bag over that whole seed panicle on I grab it by the base and I cut the panicle off. And I'll do that and carry it end up in inside and we typically then hang the panicle for a period of time to continue the drawing process let that thing dry out until it's crispy dry and when I hang it up I remove the plastic bag from it and then we spread newsprint or something on the floor to collect any of the seed that might fall out of it while it's standing there and drying and it will lead it to continue to dry inside until it's less than 12 percent moisture and the way that I used to you can use a moisture meter for this but the way that I tell that it's 12 percent oyster or less is simply with my pocket knife I have a nice shirt pocket knife I put the seed their own on a hard surface I push my pocket knife into the seed if it slices or creches it's still too green it's still too wet rather if it pops apart if it snaps a part of it cleanly shatters if it breaks that's an indication that it's crispy dry and below that 12 percent threshold at that point I'll then thresh the seed I put my plastic bag back around the seed panicle or a number of pentacles of them doing more work and I just grab the top of it and I beat the panicle against the wall we have concrete wall block building so this works really good I usually do this when I have a period of high frustration and anxiety and I find that it's very very soothing to do this and just basically beat this thing up against the wall until I've knocked all of the seed pods off of the stands we pull the stems out of the bag and what's left in the bag is chaff. Some of the leaves and some of them seed pods and all of the seed. And the seed is heavier than any of the rest of that so we just use a simple box fan to clean our seed and what I do is I take that mass that's inside the bag I put it in a 5 gallon bucket I go outside to do this and I set a box fan on the end of the table blowing that way blowing across the table and I set a 5 gallon bucket down behind the box fan and I have my 5 gallon bucket full of all of the seed and debris and in order to winnow it or to clean the seed I simply slowly pour it from one bucket to the next and using the suction side of the fan gives you real fine control about how much air is moving through the seed so that you are not blowing the seed away to the section side works much more effectively than the blowing side of the fan in this process because you can really regulate a lot more carefully how much heat is blowing away and I'll go slowly pour from one to the other the chaff blows off 1st I'll perhaps do it a 2nd time and the seedpods the parts are a little heavier blow away and then I'll do it a 3rd time when the seed is is quite clean to the point where I blow about 10 percent of the seed through the fan why do I do that because that's all the lighter seed that's a poor quality that I don't really want to keep Now if I was in the seed business I'd save that and put it in a little packet and I put a pretty picture in the pack and I'd sell it to you but I don't want that for my farm so I'm going to waste about 10 percent of that seed to ensure that the quality that I have is is really good quality Ok And that's basically the way we handle all of our vegetable seeds and with fruit seeds it's a little different process with fruit. Again we want to let this ripen fully That's the key to a good quality seed I'm going to spell let the fruit I'm going to pick the fruit if it's a cucumber or tomato or bell pepper what have you and I'm going to remove the seed from the fruit and the seed still needs to dry but before I can dry it I need to clean it and typically what I do with tomatoes well use them as an example because they're the biggest nuisance in terms of cleaning seed I have a. Little screen most of you ladies have these in your kitchens it's just a dome shaped screen and I'll take the seed and all of the flesh that's in there and by letting it ripen full fully the flesh separates from the seed pretty easily it's not like a fresh pick tomato that we would use for eating where it's really hard that. Flushing material is really sticky on the seed by the time it's a little bit fermented in and aged and fully ripe that washes off pretty clear so I put it in this little strainer and I just lightly scrub it with my fingers under water until I wash all of the fleshy part of that through the screen now I don't want to do this too hard because seeds have a coating on them that is their protection and sometimes if you scratch that protection that's a signal to the seed to germinate so you've got to be a little bit careful and delicate about doing this because you don't want to scratch the sea but you do want to get thoroughly clean. Once I have it thoroughly clean I use it to just take a paper plate with a couple of paper towels on it and I spread the seed out on these paper towels and let the paper towel absorb moisture that's there the next day I will come back and I will transfer the seed onto another plate with a fresh paper towel because it's fairly dried now and just kind of spread it around on the paper towel and then I continue to let it dry in a dark place for another perhaps $7.00 to $10.00 days until that seed also meets that crack test so that I know that it's dry enough and ready to store at that point I'll put it in and you know in the case of squash seeds and pumpkin seeds the center of the seed won't get that hard but the shell or the the seed cover will give you that cracking experience the center part of the seed still stays pretty soft most of you most of you know that but you still have to get it dry enough to store so that it doesn't rot and stored so at that point once it's dried once I've gone through that operation I'll package it and it's labeled and it's dated which is important and then it's ready to go into storage. Now many folks ask me how long can I store my seed and. Considering that we've done all of these things we want our seed in a dark and dry environment allow it to cure in that situation once we have it less than 12 percent separate it clean it package it label it date it then we need to consider how we're going to store it. Now we often kind of think of seeds as being dead but they're not really dead there's enzyme activity taking place in the seed all the time there's little triggers in there that say time to germinate no time to germinate time to germinate no time to germinate and those triggers are boisterous or light and temperature moisture as I said should be dry in terms of light it should be in a dark place why is that because light actually triggers some seeds to germinate most of us don't think of that because when we plant seeds we're putting them in the ground is in a dark down there well you'd think so but I've got a challenge for you and sometime this spring put a little of your garden soil in a clear glass or a clear plastic cup hold it up to the sunlight and look through it and you'll see the light penetrates the soil to a depth of one to 2 inches depending on the density of your soil and lettuce won't Germany without a little bit of light so having in a totally dark environment is is pretty important. The temperature needs to be a steady temperature because that's one of the triggers too that induces seed to Germany and the temperate the more of a flatline we can have in terms of moisture you don't want to getting gaining humidity and losing humidity don't want it getting exposed to light and not exposed to light and you don't want the temperature moving up and down a lot either and the way that I store the seed that we use on my farm is actually in a chest freezer. I put the chest freezer dark for one so I can put my seed in plastic bags with labels on it so it provides a dark environment it's a dry environment the seeds are dry in containers that pertain to prevent any moisture in that environment in plastic bags and I usually use double freezer bags for my seeds. But important thing is that the temperature stays really really steady it's not so much that it's cold it's that it stays really steady all the time and I suggest if you're going to use a freezer that you dedicate it to seed saving because if you try to use your typical home freezer for this and if especially if it's an upright freezer and you open and close the door of that freezer you may not realize it because everything stays frozen inside but all the cold air dumps out of that freezer and warm room temperature air which maybe 40 or 50 or even 60 degrees warmer rushes in you get quite a cycle of temperature variation even within your freezer or your refrigerator and another important reason not to store seeds in an environment like that is because foods that we buy and replenish give off ethylene gas as they age and ethylene gas is deadly for seeds that will drop your germination dramatically if they're exposed to even a few parts per 1000000 of ethylene gas that's a plant hormone and it prevents the seeds from germinating so you don't want to store seed in the same refrigerator that you are that you're using for household use now if you don't want to store it in a freezer the freezing temperature isn't as important as the steady temperature then you need to think of other places where you have nice steady conditions of temperature where you can store your seeds where they're dark and where they're dry and I have a friend that stores his seed actually in 5 gallon buckets that he buries in the ground. And he's not going to use the seeds until the next growing season he seals them in plastic bags and when they're dry and he puts a lid on a 5 gallon bucket and he buries it about 2 feet deep in the ground now we do get some soil temperature variation but it's much much less in the ground than it is in say a dark corner of a garage or in your closet someplace and that's a way to preserving the seed if you manage it this way and you handle it this way many seed varieties Alas for 10 or 12 years. I just tossed out some seed last year that I discuss in the you know it had finally come to reach the end of its longevity it's still Germann it is about 80 percent but the the quality of the plants was starting to suffer a little bit in that legacy that produced 9 years ago. Bean seeds are seeds that are higher and protein tend to lose their viability a little faster and for that reason I try to replenish my seed stocks about every 3 years I don't need to do it every year but about every 3 years and even for the hybrid varieties that I buy because I told you some of these righties are falling off the seed lists right and left I try to keep about a 3 to 5 year supply of seed on hand all the time and I. Probably grow. In terms of the market crops that I grow about a 3rd of them maybe 30 to 33 percent of them are open pollinated varieties the rest are hybrids and the variety of seeds that I have are enough to. Completely fulfill my diet even those righties of market crops that we grow things like broccoli I don't grow and open pollinated Brady of broccoli for market because customers don't like it it tastes the bass and we like it so we grow it and I also grow it for seed so that we have long term food security for that period of time when you know seeds may or may not be available to us but there's no reason not to use hybrid variety is there's no reason not to experiment with saving seed from hybrid varieties and there's no particular virtue to open pollinated righties apart from the fact that they will reproduce true to type and will give us a good reliable long term source of food Ok I think that's kind of covering the the major points there seed storage is something that you kind of got to solve on your own I've got a small market farm and I've got a 5 year supply of seed and my freezer I think cost me $110.00 it was the smallest little chest freezer that you can get and I've got a 5 year supply of seed in there so for me that works out very well if you've got a large family garden or you know an institutional garden or market farm that's that's really a sensible solution to the long term storage. And now I do open and close that a few times a year but it's not like us freezer that I've got in daily use the temperature stays very steady and in that situation Ok All right well that's about all I've got to share with you do you folks have any questions yet. She says if I'm doing succession planting you're going to be opening you know your seed every couple of weeks no that's keeping it at a minimum the thing to do is to open and put your seed out and close it and as soon as you're done you know getting as much as you need put the rest of it back in but no it's the principle you know it's it's not a perfect world we can't have a perfect environment but you want to minimise the opportunity for those temperatures that fluctuates Yes 2nd question she's asking what foods give off or potentially potential exposure she has grain and fruits and other things that fried for dried fruits of Ok it's primarily the fruits and vegetables that give off ethylene and yes even dried fruit will give off ethylene I'm not so certain about the Greens that's a good question I'll have to look into that because I don't know the answer to that I suspected so dominant Leigh the fruits and vegetables that are problematic for that yes yes are. Well how can I do to differentiate whether a plant has virus to determine whether or not to save that seed there's a couple of ways one of which is to get our d.v.d. set because I tell you all about how to find virus the other is to come to our training class that you know part of the plant path ology course that we offer virus are actually fairly easy to identify because the symptoms are often the names of the virus and if you go online and do a little research for virus infected plants you'll you'll you'll see photographs and examples of virus typically it causes a discoloring in the leaf that's that's quite profound and distinct and different from fungal diseases or from other types of leaf damage and they're not that difficult to discern just look at Biarritz is and follow your way around there's a number of different types of thousands actually different types of viruses they're not real common but they do exist especially on many of the curve it crops the squash in the pumpkins and you definitely don't want to save seeds from a virus infected plant because once a plant is infected with a virus you must assume that every part of that plant has that virus in it whether it's expressing itself or not just says you know as a child I had chicken pox and of at this age I come under some extraordinary stress I can develop shingles because that virus is still in my body I don't have the chicken pox anymore but I've still got the virus within me so symptoms come and go implants too and sometimes they won't show the symptoms but if you observe the symptoms that any time during the growing season that's a plant that you don't want to use for saving seed or your entire next generation will have that Mieris yes or. Can I hybridise open pollinated by definition can you use it as a parent in hybridization or can I take an open pollinated variety and take plant a and cross it with plant b. is that your question no because the original open pollinated variety all of the individuals within that right let's say Roman tomato for example if I take a Roma tomato from your garden and from her garden and from his garden they're all going to be genetically identical or very closely to genetically identical that's what the definition means. The the open pollinated varieties simply going to produce an offspring of the same variety because genetically the pollen and the. The egg have the same gene d.n.a. the same chromosome so that's what makes it a stable variety but I can use an open pollinated variety and cross it with a different variety it can take that Roman tomato and crass it with a brand new wine tomato and come with come up with with another hybrid Yes you have to stabilize it over that 6 or 7 generation period that's that's a really interesting point to make because I've done that in some circumstances where at the f. 3 or the f 4 generations you come up with something that's really exceptional and the only way to get that again is to started the beginning and go those 3 generations in fact there are a few vegetable crops on the market today that are f 2 varieties and the seed is expensive for that reason because they've got to grow the See It takes 2 years to develop the seat but yes that's a that's an interesting observation and one that I've seen. Now the question back here how many different plants or varieties. Different plants. Open pollinated I typically use for plants that has off off of 4 lettuce plants accumulated as much as 3 and a half gallons of seed that's that 9 year old seed I told you about that was that was that 3 and a half gallon bucket of seed that it took me that long to use so you don't need quite a number of plants if it's an open pollinated plant there's no genetic diversity anyways so that's not really an issue and if you've taken the time to study the plant as it's growing to make sure that it doesn't have virus that it's a vigorous plant you know by the time I'm cutting the lettuce around those plants it's you know 60 or 70 days old and by then if it's a weak plant or has a defective genetic information it'll manifest itself at that time and in that case I just go ahead and cut that plant and leave the one that's next to it and produce seed that's healthy Ok Any other questions are all seedless grapes and watermelons hybrids is a really good point because a lot of people are shy of eating seedless fruits sometimes the characteristic for producing seed is Perth then okapi Carpi that's here that's your $5.00 word for the day part then a carby there are some there is some work being done with genetically modifying some crops for the characteristic of not producing seed but but. Better say that louder but most of if not all of the current seedless varieties of watermelons of grapes of other fruits are simply seeds that do not fully develop within the plant meaning that just as we selected a female seed sterile parent for hybridisation will will will select for that characteristic and creating a hybrid that has a failed mechanism for producing the seed and if you actually look at those things closely you'll see that there are microscopic seeds there they just don't fully develop so they're not truly seedless they're just seeds that don't fully develop that's perfectly safe to eat it's perfectly natural but I do want to caution you that they're doing work in genetic modification now to produce seedless right to through it entirely different process that negates hold. The whole seed production part of. 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