Saving Fall Seed Has to be Done Right Says LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

Thomas J. Koske  |  8/21/2006 8:41:13 PM

News You Can Use For December 2003 

Saving seed for next season is usually not a good idea. "You may well get mostly parent-like throwback that doesn’t look all that good," says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Tom Koske.

"Today, we grow mostly highly improved, hybrid cultivars," Koske explains, noting, "Hybrids, because of the nature of their derivation, do not self-breed true to the cultivar type – the phenotype."

The LSU AgCenter horticulturist continues, "Open-pollinated or non hybrid cultivars, however, do breed true if self-pollinated." He says if you must save seed of an open-pollinated variety, consider these points:

• If the plant is not self-pollinated with a complete or perfect flower, be sure of the hand-crosses made.

• Air-dry seed for a few weeks whether they’re harvested after the fruit is over ripe or harvested dry. Then store in the refrigerator.

• Avoid selecting plants or fruit with disease, insect damage and any that even hint of irregular growth patterns.

• Record what you have and date it.

Recent research at the USDA-ARS (Agricultural Research Service) in Fort Collins, Colo., has keyed in on proper storage to maintain the seed’s viability. The rate at which a seed ages is determined by its initial quality, moisture content and storage temperature.

Holding seeds in dry air at 25 percent relative humidity (RH) at a temperature of 40 F (refrigerator temperature) for a few weeks best prepares the seeds, according to the research. Under these conditions, the seeds are neither under-dried nor over-dried.

After preconditioning, the seed moisture content is optimal for whatever is considered "long term" for that species. Further storage is then best accomplished by holding seeds at 0 F in a closed container.

"With these findings in mind, we would do best with fully mature, non-diseased seeds that were placed in paper bags and held in the refrigerator for three weeks," Koske says, adding, "After that, put them in freezer bags or hard, sealed containers and store in the freezer."

Gardeners may exchange special seeds as a fun project across a parish or the state. Check with your parish LSU AgCenter county agent or Louisiana Master Gardeners to see if other local gardeners are interested.

Those interested in heirloom seeds may wish to contact the Seed Savers Exchange. It offers a free catalog online or by calling (563)382-5990.

Another local seed resource is the Louisiana Market Bulletin produced by the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (925) 922-1284.

Additional yard and garden information is available by looking for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: old.lsuagcenter.com.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: http://old.lsuagcenter.com/

On the Internet: www.louisianalawnandgarden.org.

Source: Tom Koske (225) 578-2222, or tkoske@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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