PRESS BULLETIN No. 67.
florida Agricultural Experiment Station.
SAVING, STORING, AND TESTING SEEDS.
BY JOHN BELLING.
The peculiar soil and climate of Florida, which are not paralleled
in the other states, require special selections of seeds adapted to them.
Experience has shown that the same care and intelligence applied to
the saving of seed on the spot where it is to be sown will give better
results than if the seed is selected at a location several hundred miles
away. Hence in the case of many of those plants which seed well in
Florida, the growers of this State may often save many dollars by prop-
erly saving their own seed. This end will not be attained by saving
seed from a few specially large or well-flavored fruits scattered here and
there. On the contrary, the seed should be saved from all the fruits of
the few best-yielding plants in the field. Seeds saved from the best
individual fruits without taking into account the number of fruits on
each plant, produce seedlings which may bear some good fruits, but
which do not bear heavily. The whole field should be examined, and
those plants which, while growing apparently under the. same condi-
tions as the rest of the field, bear extra large quantities of fruit, above the
average in size and flavor, should be marked, and their fruit kept for
seed. This is the way in which the great improvements which have
been made of late years in the tomato have been brought about. For
this reason the selected cotton of the Sea Islands near Charleston
fetches higher prices than the long-staple cotton of the mainland.
But the selected seeds must be properly dried and stored, so that
if possible every seed shall germinate; and not only germinate, but
germinate well, and produce an extra healthy seedling. The fully ripe
seeds should be removed from the fruit, cleansed and carefully dried,
avoiding too great heat (that is, above blood temperature). So the
seeds should not be exposed to, the sun's rays, but dried in the shade.
There are two conditions which acting together are prejudicial to the
keeping of seeds, and if allowed to act will quickly destroy their vitality.
October 10, 1907.
These are heat and moisture. In northern climates seeds may get slightly
damp during the winter, but the cold prevents ill effects. In dry climates,
like that of Egypt, seeds may get quite warm, but the dryness of the
air obviates any injury. But in the Gulf States, in South, and more or
less in North Florida, the seeds may be exposed for months to a warm
moist atmosphere, and experiments have shown that they do not keep
nearly so well as in those more northern regions where the summer is
hot but dry, and the early spring and late fall, if occasionally damp, are
yet cool. It has'also been shown that well-dried seeds kept in cold
storage will keep remarkably well. But the most practical way is to
put valuable or selected seeds, immediately after drying, into fruit jars
which can be closed air-tight; or if in large quantities, into cans which
can be made air-tight by running melted paraffin or rosin round the
edge of the lid. To keep the air in the can or bottle quite dry, a
large lump of good quicklime should be wrapped up in a paper, or
other covering, so as not to come into contact with the seeds, and put
in the jar or can. In this way the writer has kept seeds for three years
in a hot and damp tropical climate, where the deterioration of many
seeds (if not large or oily) was a matter often of days or weeks.
If seeds have not been well stored, many of them are dead, and
others are so injured that they will never make perfectly healthy plants.
The first of these defects can be remedied by sowing more of the seed,
but the second is more difficult to obviate, and is doubtless often one
cause of extensive losses from disease. The best way is to sow only
healthy seeds. To know healthy seeds, there is only one practical
method, that is to find how many will germinate. The germination
may be hastened by soaking the seeds for 6 to 12 hours in clean water.
If left for a day in water, they will usually begin to rot. Some fairly
large seeds (such as those of some legumes) germinate quicker if a
small piece of the seed-coat is cut or filed off, which should be done on
the side opposite to the scar of attachment. One hundred seeds are
then put between two folds of clean damp flannel between two dinner
plates. (There should be no water in the lower plate, or the seeds
may be drowned.) The numbers that germinate in a week or so should
be counted. Some seeds, such at celery, germinate better if sown in
well-drained shallow boxes of sand.
State papers please copy.