You are on page 1of 28

Seed Security and

Growing Seed
Seeds are the primary basis for human sustenance.
Rachelle Ternier of Prairie Garden Seeds, Chris Wooding of Ironwood Organics,
Treaty 6 Territory in Saskatchewan Eastern Ontario

● Focus on “small” scale (human scale)
● Goals are to inspire, educate and provide some method and resources
The Big Picture:
seed security and public access
Think about this for a minute...
● Seeds represent 10,000 yrs of agricultural
● Seed diversity means food diversity
● Seeds rely on environment, soil, pollinators
● Some plants rely on clonal propagation

● Seeds must be kept alive by growing
them regularly, a living collection!
● No seeds - no food
● Control of seed, is control of food
● If your current source disappeared,
where would you find new seed?
Why think about seeds and public access?
● No one should be able to restrict access
to the most essential elements for our
survival that no person invented
● biodiversity is fun, good for resiliency, is
beautiful, needed for changing climate
● regionally adapted seeds
● liberated seeds, free from constraints,
open source seeds, seeds as a part of
the commons for all
● Community food, and seed, sovereignty
● seeds tell stories!
● Something tangible and inspiring for
people to engage with
Resilience in diversity
● Individual farm resilience from diversifying ● Collective resilience when we all grow seed
What kind of a system do we want?
We cannot allow consolidation of power and control in our food system to continue like this...

Utrecht Blue Wheat

We must work hard to reverse this trend in order to achieve the
people centred system that is best for all of us. Currently, corporate
profit first is controlling our seed supplies, but we must change that!
Howard, Philip H. Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat? London: Bloomsbury Academic (February 25, 2016).
Open Source Seed Initiative
● Semillas libres!
The OSSI Pledge: “You have
the freedom to use these OSSI-
Pledged seeds in any way you
choose. In return, you pledge not
to restrict others’ use of these seeds
or their derivatives by patents or
other means, and to include this
Pledge with any transfer of these
seeds or their derivatives.”
Seed Policy and the Law
International & Federal Acts and Regulations
● Overarching legislation for field crops is Canada Seed Act/Regulations
● ‘Public’ germplasm is a human right - UN
● Agricultural Growth Act and Plant Breeders Right Act
● UPOV 91 (International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants)
○ PLUTO: Plant Variety Database
‘Legal Seed’
● Field crop seed in Canada must be on ‘Variety Registration List’ to be sold
○ Grassess
○ Grains ( Wheat, Barley, Oats, Rye, Rice)
○ Canola
○ Soy, Peas, Lentils
○ Corn, Sunflower
○ Potatoes
○ Tobacco
● Managed by CFIA
● Varieties are regularly de-registered

● Heritage seed is in the “Public Domain”
CFIA Variety Registration Example
● Hard Red Spring Wheat
○ Currently 313 on the list
○ 69 have been deregistered (most date from 1926 -1979)
○ 1979 and before - 6
○ 1980-1989 = 10
○ 1990 - 1999 = 52
○ 2000- 2004 = 37
○ 2005 - 2009 = 38
○ 2010 - 2014 = 61
○ 2015 -present = 39
● In the USDA Classification of Wheat Varieties from 1923 there were 606
total varieties listed
Government Seed Germplasm
● Seeds can be obtained in North America from
○ PGRC (Plant Gene Resources of Canada)
○ GRIN (Germplasm Resources Information Network)

● Seeds coming into the country require permits
○ an Import Permit - issued by CFIA
○ a phytosanitary permit - issued by sender
○ The permit restricts where seed in to be grown

● Why? - primarily for disease
○ Consider implementing a biosecurity protocol on your farm.
Paper Work: Import Permit, MTA, Phyto Sanitary
Seed Diversity:
Open Pollinated
Some Definitions
● “Heritage/Heirloom”
○ public domain and open pollinated
○ generally been grown for at least 1 generation,
though many have been around for much longer (50
years is often the guideline for many people)
● “Landrace”
○ regionally adapted variations
○ “farmer variety”
● Open Pollinated & F1 Hybrid
● “Hybridization” vs open pollination and clonal propagation
uniformity is a
double edged
“Seeds have the power to preserve species, to enhance cultural as well as
genetic diversity, to counter economic monopoly and to check the advance of
conformity on all its many fronts.” - Michael Pollan
Grain Definitions
● Ancient
○ Emmer, Einkorn, Spelt ( Collectively Farro)
○ descendant of ancestral grasses
● Heritage
○ Pre green revolution ( 1940)
○ Open pollinated
○ Public Domain
● Landrace
○ Has the ability to regionally adapt to a local
○ Possible a ‘sub-variety’
○ Esp. when seeds saved year over year
Seed Diversity
● Seed diversity includes:
○ Different Crops
○ Varieties
○ Genetics
○ Disease profile
○ History / culture
○ Temporal diversity

● Spatial diversity is also important
○ The more growers the better
○ Greater distance between growers implies security
○ Mitigates disease pressure
Seed Growing, Saving,
and Renewing
All seeds have limited life spans, (depending on the crop and storage conditions), therefore you must interact with collections of seeds regularly!
Growing Seed
● Scale matters - completely manual, small automation, big!
○ Human labour and technology/equipment
● Before seeding, consider planning…
○ Time from seed to seed, space required, pollination/isolation...
● During growth, consider conscious roguing/selecting…
○ Desired characteristics, uniformity or diversity...
● During growth, consider when seed is mature…
● End of season, consider how to “finish” maturing…
● Final stages, consider processing methods…
● Dormant stage, consider storage conditions…
○ They continue to metabolise (in storage you mean?)
Genetic preservation / conservation
● Grow out frequently enough to prevent seed death!
● Even self pollinated plants drift (or spontaneously mutate!)
● Maintain isolation distances/plant a few weeks apart to avoid
simultaneous flowering/create physical barriers between varieties
● When in doubt - discard it / eat it - or just label accordingly!
● Various “levels” of preservation
Bringing in the seeds
● Harvest at appropriate times, push maturity
● Dry thoroughly before storage
● Final threshing and cleaning can be done in winter
● Label plants/bags/bundles (inside and out)
Planting Growing & Harvest
● Seed Source
Soil prep Observations / DSP
● Variety Name
Soil type Weather
● Variety History
Seed rate Weed pressure
● Growing periods
Row spacing Height
Seed weight Disease
Planting depth Lodging
Planting date Weight / area
Planting locationing Seed weight
Activities Harvest date
Cleaning and Storage
● Wet processing vs Dry processing
● Separate seed from hull/pod (Threshing)
● Remove chaff (Winnowing)
● Remove other seed (scalp / sieve)
● Series of screen sizes/shapes/material
● Dehulling for eating (not needed for seed)

● Seeds are living and breathing…!
● Store cool, dry, dark and insect/rodent free!
● Seed moisture should be @10% - 14%
Organizations & Resources
● Navdanya ● Native Seeds/SEARCH
● Seeds of Diversity Canada ● Hudson Valley Seed Library
● National Farmer’s Union ● Fedco Seeds
● USC Canada ● Salt Spring Seeds
● Seed Saver’s Exchange ● La Via Campesina
● Open Source Seed Initiative ● SCIC’s Ethical Eats
● The Cornucopia Institute ● Food Secure Canada
● Wild Garden Seed ● Organic Seed Alliance
● Sierra Seeds ● Gaia Foundation
● JL Hudson Seedsman ● GRAIN
And many more!

Return to Resistance; In the tradition of Silent Spring, Raoul Robinson's Return to Resistance calls for a
revolution. Traditional plant breeding techniques have led us to depend more and more on chemical
pesticides to protect our crops
Originally published: January 1996
Author: Raoul A Robinson
● Other resources USDA Digital library, seed sources ■ Canadian Seed Act
○ National Plant Germplasm System ■
■ /regulations/C.R.C.,_c._1400/Ful
○ Plant Gene Resources of Canada lText.html
■ ■ Canadian Seed Regulations
tml ■
○ Germplasm Resources Unit /regulations/C.R.C.,_c._1400/Ful
○ lText.html
● Canadian Regulators ■ Agricultural Growth Act
○ Canadian Food Inspection Regulators ■
■ Phytosanitary Certificates e-cfia/acts-and-regulations/regul
■ atory-initiatives/bill-c-18/eng/14
nts/exports/phytosanitary-certifi 24996545350/1424996811411
cates/eng/1299872808479/1299 ■ Plant Breeders Rights Act
872974262 ■
■ Import Procedures and Permits /acts/P-14.6/index.html
■ ■ UPOV 91
nts/plant-pests-invasive-species/ ■
imports/eng/1324569244509/13 /conventions/1991/content.html
24569331710 ■
■ Variety Registration List ○ Canadian Seed Trade Association
■ ○
ve/netapp/regvar/regvar_lookup ts/
e.aspx ○ UN - Food and Agriculture Organization