Seed quality was one of the big topics at USC Canada’s Train the Seed Trainer sessions. All the participants had a lot to say on the topic. And though we had many conflicting opinions on other seed issues, we had consensus making a list of seed quality concerns.
I’ve taken that list and broken it into a few categories and elaborated on each of them:
- Basic seed concerns
- Physical handling concerns
- Genetic concerns
- Traceability concerns
Basic Seed Concerns
These are some of the first things that folks thing of in terms of good seed:
- Germination rate: Does the seed germinate well?
- Seedling vigor: Do the seedlings grow vigorously?
- Seedborne diseases: Is the seed free of problematic diseases?
Physical Handling Concerns
- Cleanliness: How much chaff, dirt, or dust is present?
- Presence of weed seeds
- Handling mistakes: Was the variety mislabeled? Was there an accidental mixing of another variety of the same species during cleaning or packing?
- Varietal purity: Has the variety cross-pollinated?
- Population size: Was seed saved from a large enough population to maintain a wide genetic breadth?
Where is the variety strain from originally? Is it simply another variety that’s been renamed? How were previous generations handled? Does the variety perform/appear different from what it once did?
What Is Seed Quality?
You might notice that I have highlighted all of the above as concerns. In the end we did not put forward a list that defines quality seed as each of these concerns is not all or nothing. They depend greatly on the end use of the seed.
Beets with a 55% germination are fine for a home garden though none of us would want to sell those beets seeds. Slightly crossed up tomato seed is probably good for the vegetable grower who saved it though again none of us would want to sell the seed.
Generally speaking if the seed is for sale, then high standards need to be met, but seed saved for personal garden and farm use needs to meet the standards the seed saver can tolerate.
Do you think we’ve missed anything in this seed quality discussion?
What are your seed quality concerns?
One comment one seed growers made was that he doesn’t often hear back from his clients after they’ve ordered seeds until their next seed order. He would love to hear their complaints about the seeds (if they have any.) And of course he loves to hear from thrilled clients too!
So, go and write your seed sources a letter to tell them what you don’t like so much and what you love!