With growing evidence that beneficial microorganisms can be inherited in seeds, and the advent of next-generation DNA sequencing technologies, growers have a new opportunity to cultivate beneficial microbes in their plants, share them with friends, and contribute to new scientific discoveries. As seed stewards, we can encourage long-term, positive ecological interactions between our seeds and the microbe-rich ecosystems around us. Yet we still have much to learn about how these microbes are associated with plants and how they are inherited across generations. If we can understand the the nature of microbial inheritance, we may be able to better promote beneficial symbiosis between microbes and our beloved plants for a more DIY, resilient, and adaptive food system.
Participatory Research Project Aims
This participatory research project aims to follow the fate of seeds as they leave the care of seed companies and seed stewards, and are planted in different soils, in various climates, by a diverse community of seed growers. As the seeds are inherited by new growers each successive generation, we will follow changes in the communities of seed-borne microbes.
For each research participant we will sample 20 seeds for the presence of microorganisms, before and after harvest. Participants will be informed directly of the findings, and will be able to compare them to the findings of the community as a whole.
Ideally this network will persist for years, so we can understand how a community of seed savers is affecting the microbial inheritance over time
If you are looking for more seed, we recommend buying seeds from participating seed companies Adaptive Seeds and Carol Deppe’s Fertile Valley Seeds. In addition to being excellent seed companies in the Pacific Northwest, these companies have provided the basis of corn seed samples for the community research network.
Would your seed company like to participate? Let me know when you register for the Community Research Network.
How to join the participatory research project:
1. Obtain any open-pollinated corn variety (or varieties). You can purchase your preferred corn variety from participating seed companies Adaptive Seeds or Carol Deppe’s Fertile Valley Seeds – or from another of your choosing. If you are already growing corn, that works too!
2. Prepare your corn samples for submission. Samples should contain 20-50 seeds that are representative of the entire batch of seeds. If you did not receive your corn from Adaptive Seeds or Fertile Valley Seeds, we ask that you send a sample of your seed source, in addition to a sample of your own harvest, so we get a baseline of which microorganisms were present before you planted them.
2. Fill out sample submission form for each corn sample you wish to send, and follow further instructions!