Recently I registered for a Permaculture Tasmania webinar delivered by Linda Cockburn and Trevor Wittmer from SeedFreaks.
Their business, located south of Hobart and centred on the small township of Geeveston, grows plants organically and specifically for collecting open pollinated seed. On their website you can access a free booklet A Guide to Seed Saving; this can be downloaded from here. I found most useful their ‘seedsaving chart’ because, not only does it list the vegetables with their common and scientific name, it gives the nature of pollination and much more.
The webinar was rather frustrating for me because the interviewer injected himself a great deal when I wanted only to hear Linda and Trevor. But I persisted over almost two hours because when the ‘seedfreaks’ talked they gave out a great deal of useful practical information. Linda was particularly articulate with the sharing of her knowledge. So be warned – but stick at it if you can; there is too much good material that you shouldn’t miss.
From near the beginning of the webinar, reference was often made to F1 seeds but this was never explained. I have since Googled and found information in assorted places. For example the GardeningKnowHow site describes the difference between hybridised and heirloom seeds. ‘Plants grown from F1 hybrid seeds tend to grow stronger and have greater survival rates than their homozygous relatives. These plants need fewer pesticides and other chemical treatments to survive and that’s good for the environment. There are, however, a few downsides to using F1 hybrid seeds. F1 seeds are often more expensive because they cost more to produce. All that hand pollination doesn’t come cheap, nor does the laboratory testing these plants undergo. (Reliable) F1 seeds can’t be harvested by the thrifty gardener for use the following year’ (they either won’t grow true or won’t produce vigorous plants). From the webinar I came to understand that, as the multinational seed companies limit the variety of seeds and create a situation where a gardener must buy new seeds every time, the F1 seeds would ultimately reduce the variety in the seed pool, and when growers could no longer afford new seeds, malnutrition and starvation could result – on a massive scale. It sounds alarmist, but Linda and Trevor made the case simply and clearly.
In addition, they talked about the problems of seed vaults in places such as Norway where seeds will come to the end of their lives, and without regermination and recollection they will become unviable museum pieces. Linda and Trevor also remarked on the dangers of storing seeds in few seed banks and pushed for lots of seed banks of various sizes; this means the home gardener should create and maintain their own.
Overall the message was that each of us make take responsibility to collect seeds to balance out the dangers of the mass grown hybrids which offer no guarantee of future growth with subsequent seed collection and planting.
The webinar left me understanding we are vulnerable globally, and the long term future for the world is bleak if we do not maintain genetic diversity of plants, through a rich and broad collection of different seeds. So, despite my relative laziness, I now realise that I must make a planned and determined effort to collect seeds from everything I grow, then germinate these over time and eventually keep obviously viable seeds. Phew – just another job to add to my list!