Techniques for Long Term Seed Storage

By Clayton Carter

How hard it would be to have a simple piece of toast without our modern conveniences? From mining and smelting the ore for the pan, to refining the sugar for the yeast. Chopping wood for the fire. Starting the fire without matches! And for all that work, it wouldn’t be worth the effort without flour. It takes generations to pull together and build the infrastructure so we can enjoy something that seems so simple. It could be argued that it is a grain at the heart of our society. Every great idea starts with a seed!

Witches-Herbal-Seed-StorageSeeds may be the most valuable commodity on earth when looking for a return on investment. We have come a way from wild corn and wheat in wicker baskets to feed the tribe. The Svarbald Global Seed Vault in Norway opened in February of 2008 represents the pinnacle of what we know about saving seeds and grains for the future. In this article we go deep to find out from the experts how to keep your seeds healthy year after year.

Tips for storing your seeds:

1. Keep seeds at freezing under 40 degrees. Your home freezer is perfect.
2.  Insulate your container to avoid fluctuations in the temperature. Storing in a garage or storeroom that is cold in winter but blazing hot in summer isn’t ideal.
3.  Both light and air are the enemy so never store seeds in direct sunlight or even in a well lit area. Keep them dark and air tight as best you can.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA4.  Store your seeds in a containers that provide a barrier against moisture.  A Mylar bag or mason jar is perfect. Film canisters, Ziplock bags, and Tupperware are fine for shorter-term seasonal storage but it’s best to ensure they are high quality with an air tight seal.
5.  After drying the seeds for storage put them in envelopes or old prescription bottles so they can be labeled easily.  Then just drop them in your.

So what are some of the concerns you should have about long term seed storage? 
The most frequent issue that will arise with stored seeds is mold and mildew. Damp seeds will grow a grey fungus quickly if left untreated. The cause of this issue is often because the seeds were not dried before storing them. If you see moisture inside your container after sealing the seeds up they were probably stored too soon. Lay them out in a shady dry area for 24 to 48 hours and try sealing them back up. You don’t want to dry them out completely!

While seeds ripen on the plant they prepare to fall off and dry out a little during the dormant period. This will slow down their internal processes, and by convert food reserves from sugars to more stable fats and starches. Wait until your fruits are ripe before harvesting your seeds so they will be prepared for drying and dormancy. Some seeds even germinate better after drying versus going in the ground “fresh.”

$_35The process of drying your seeds needs to be done gradually. Dry for two weeks in an air conditioned room at 20% to 40% relative humidity ideally. Using desiccants might be necessary when drying in more than 40% relative humidity. During storage, seeds must be kept at 60-76 Fahrenheit for a slow dry and the greatest longevity.

Even when you do everything correctly storing your seeds for more than two years will lower the viability of a percentage of your seeds; some cannot be saved no matter how hard we try. Seedlings produced from stored seeds may also lack vigor as they reach into ancient energy stores. Focusing on keeping the roots happy and healthy for these plants proves to be the best approach at ensuring their survival. We recommend Kelp Extracts and Rooting Supplements to support your seedlings during this critical period.

Ceres Seed StorageSometimes insects like weevils can make their way into your seed stock, and it might be best to just assume you got bugs even if they can’t be seen. Adding in a little diatomaceous earth will provide protection to your seeds. Keeping the container in a freezer will halt their movement as well and keep any damage done to an absolute minimum.

When it comes time to pop a few of your beans from the freezer it is best to allow the container to reach room temperature before breaking the seal. Opening cold seeds up to your warm atmosphere can cause condensation to build up, and that moisture could be deadly.

You can test your the germination rate to estimate how many seeds are still viable.

1. Dampen a paper towel until it is nearly soaked.
2. Put 10 seeds in the center of the paper towel and carefully fold it over.
3. Put this paper towel and seed into a plastic bag not quite sealed all the way and place your bundle in a warm area.
4. After 2 days check it every 12 hours and see just what percentage of seeds are still sprouting.

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