Join the Participatory Research Project

***Now recruiting! Click here to register!***

Click here to submit seed samples


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!


Carol Deppe’s Cascade Ruby-Gold













10 comments on “Join the Participatory Research Project

  1. Linda Sebring says:

    I got my seeds from Carol Deppe two years ago. I grow Ruby Gold flint corn and also her Maple Gold that is not being offered this year. My garden location is on the HP campus. The employee/retiree garden just north of Corvallis off Hwy 20.

    • says:

      Hi Linda, that’s great! I’m going to grow my first Ruby Gold this year in my garden. If you are interested in being involved in the research, you can register above.
      Best wishes,

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Hey Lucas, Is this study just for gardeners and farmers in the PNW? I’m in Central Ohio and would love to participate, but I don’t know if your experiment parameters would have room for midwestern soils.

    • says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for your interest!

      Go ahead and register. I’m quickly realizing that this is a bigger network than the PNW, and I do not want to be exclusive. If you got the seeds from Adaptive Seeds or Carol Deppe’s Fertile Valley Seeds, then we can have you send a sample in the fall when you harvest. If you are planting other seeds (including your own saved seeds) then I would need a sample of them now (before you plant), in addition to the fall, so we have a good idea of the microbes you are starting with! By a “sample” I mean at least 20 seeds randomly chosen. Let me know if you would like to send in seeds this spring and we can arrange that.

      Best wishes,

  3. Rebecca says:

    I am a backyard gardener from central Wisconsin sand country interested in open pollinated flint corn. For several years now, I’ve been growing red or purple seed saved from the best of the last years crop mixed with other varieties such as Red Flint Floriani from Starke Round Barn NE to help maintain genetic diversity since I don’t have room for 200 plants. Right now most stalks are 8-10′ tall with two or three ears and I am nearing harvest. I still have leftover planting seed from this spring. If its not too late, things aren’t too mixed up, and if I can be of any help to your project, please let me know. Thank you.

    • says:

      Dear Rebecca,

      Sorry for the late reply! You are very welcome to join the community research network. If you think you stored the leftover seeds from planting fairly well (cool and dry, freezer is actually best!), then you can send them, along with your recent harvest. Feel free to join the network and then we can go from there.

      Best wishes,

  4. Kevin Kane says:

    Hi, I have been thinking about the relationship of microbes and seed. Do we know at this time if bacteria and fungi inhabit the inside of plant cells or do they exist in tissue spaces ? There has been a recent significant finding that human babies have bacteria present in their system while in the womb, so were they also present ealier ? Do we know if they are present in the pollen ? ova ? Thank you, Kevin

    • says:

      Hi Kevin, sorry for not responding to your earlier posts! I had trouble keeping up with my website at the end of last year. I’m really excited about your interest – and I have received your seeds, thank you.

      About your questions: as far as we know, baceria and fungi are occupying the spaces between the plant cells of the seed. Different species of microbe seem to preferentially colonize different parts of the seed (endosperm, embryo, or pericarp). How they get there is another question, one that we are trying to explore by looking at the developing ova. We haven’t lookedat pollen yet, but it is for certain that microbes exist on pollen grains.

      Regarding the human babies, there is some evidence that babies are not born “sterile” but instead may receive some microbes from their mother while in the womb, possibly from the placenta. Evidence includes the fact that their first poop is already extensively colonized by microbes. It is still not clear if this is a common/important occurrence, or more random.

      I hope that helps.

  5. MissLouise says:

    We are in North Florida which is just like South Georgia. We are growing Texas Gourdseed corn from our saved seed of 4 years. Also a local Creek Indian corn that we just received this year from a family in Cheifland, Florida. This family had been using the corn for generations since it was gifted to them by a Creek Indian woman. They have used it for livestock feed for many years. We are excited to be a part of this research and give a connection to the Southeast.

    • Lucas Nebert says:

      Wow, that’s exciting, thanks for sharing! I’m looking forward to working with you on this.

      Best wishes,

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