Wednesday, 07 September 2011
Saving seeds, the gift that keeps on giving
In my last article I covered heirloom vegetables, whose seeds have been passed down from generation to generation, farmer to farmer, but how does one go about saving seeds?
The first thing to note is that many commercial seed types can’t be saved, most notably F1 and F2 hybrids. Sadly many of the plants sold in our nurseries today are hybrids, grown by commercial growers.
These are plants that are engineered to exhibit particular qualities of a parent plant. The problem with this is that saving their seeds with either lead to a crop failure or a plant that doesn’t mimic it’s parent plant as the offspring starts to revert to it’s own dominate ones.
You may wonder why anyone would want to grow these seemingly ‘freaks of nature’, well in a commercial context these genes can create a plant that might be drought resistant, or less susceptible to a particular disease, which is beneficial to the farmer growing them as they can lead to higher yields come harvest time. The downside is that it makes the farmer reliant on buying seed annually from a commercial grower.
I believe seeds belong to us all and have been property of the people of the world since inception and that is why I advocate planting open-pollinated seed, seed that is free from tampering and allows you to have a reproducible offspring, every time. In fact studies show that seeds saving a particular plant grown in the same location year after year will in fact lead to even healthier offspring.
Each plants seed saving requirements are specific to it so I can’t divulge information in this article, though an invaluable resource is the on-line version of ‘Basic Seed Saving’ by Bill McDorman, available on the International Seed Saving Institutes website here: http://www.seedsave.org/issi/issi_904.html
So as we go into Spring, think about letting some of your plants go to seed and research how to save them for subsequent seasons, not only is is cost effective it’s vital to the preserve these heirloom varieties from being lost to future generations
Matt Allison is a Cape Town based eco-advocate and urban farmer who's
rethinking food one meal at a time. Find out more from him at www.imnojamieoliver.com