Saving Heirloom Tomatoes with the USDA Seed Library Project for Gardeners and Farmers
The USDA seed library is a great source of legacy tomato seeds, offering the opportunity to request and share seeds with other growers. This project has been compared to the Dwarf project or the Karma Pink effort, but instead of creating new OP stock, it would be rescuing tomatoes that may otherwise become extinct.
For those who have ordered from the USDA/GRIN in recent years, there are some things to consider when breeding tomatoes. It's important to remember that many of these seeds may not be stable and could be landraces. There can also be differences between the descriptions in the GRIN catalog and what one actually grows out from the seed provided, as well as variations within the plants themselves.
When growing out varieties from multiple sources, it's helpful to compare them to named USDA sourced varieties. Unfortunately, 20-30% of the USDA seeds grown have significant differences than their descriptions in the database. In some cases, this means that the plant isn't what you're used to or that it doesn't match the description at all. Additionally, different seed companies described things like color and fruit size differently over time, making comparison more difficult.
It's possible that lack of funding and sloppy work on behalf of the federal government may be contributing factors to these issues. Poor plant segregation in growouts could also play a role. Despite potential difficulties, it is still worthwhile and interesting to sample the collection and save and share seeds. Doing so helps ensure that these valuable heirloom varieties don't become lost forever.When ordering from the USDA, it's important to remember that some of these varieties may not be true-to-type. It is also helpful to order multiple packets of each variety in case there are differences between them. Additionally, if you're looking for a specific trait or characteristic, such as disease resistance or flavor profile, it's best to look at other sources and compare those with what comes out of the GRIN catalog.
The legacy tomato seed project is an exciting opportunity for gardeners and farmers alike who want access to rare heirloom tomatoes that have been lost over time due to lack of funding and poor plant segregation practices by the federal government. By requesting seeds through this program we can help ensure these valuable varieties don't become extinct forever!
What is the USDA seed library?
The USDA seed library is a collection of seeds from around the world, maintained by the United States Department of Agriculture. It includes a variety of plants, including tomatoes.
How do I request seed from the USDA seed library?
The process for requesting seed from the USDA seed library is fairly straightforward. You can find instructions on their website.
Has anyone tried requesting seeds recently?
Yes, some people have requested seeds from the USDA seed library in recent years and can share their experiences.
What is the Dwarf Project or Karma Pink effort?
The Dwarf Project and Karma Pink effort are projects that involve creating new open-pollinated (OP) stock, such as new varieties of tomatoes.
Is there anyone else interested in rescuing tomatoes from possible extinction?
Yes, some people are interested in rescuing tomatoes from possible extinction.
Are there any ethical issues with accessing these seeds?
No, there are no ethical issues with accessing these seeds so long as you have an interest in breeding them.
Are many of the USDA seeds not stable?
Yes, many of the USDA seeds may not be stable due to being landraces and/or accidental cross pollinations within GRIN.
Is it worthwhile to sample the collection and save and share seeds?
Yes, it is worthwhile to sample the collection and save and share seeds. However, it is important to compare what you get to old catalogs to confirm that it is the same or similar to the release, or very different.
What could be causing issues with some of the USDA seeds?
Issues with some of the USDA seeds could be caused by lack of funding and sloppy work, as well as poor plant segregation in their growouts.