Seed banking is a method by seed scientists to try to help to combat the problem of the “disappearing cultivators.” Cultivators are the seeds of different varieties that big plant companies use to start their crop pf the certain plants. Cultivators can be picked from the plant or fruit and then stored for next year or they can be genetically modified in the seed before it is planted into the soil.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were varieties that make our “exotic varieties” today look plain. There were purple fleshed potatoes, white tomatoes, an blue peas. Yes, we have some of those varieties today, but we do not have the original seeds. We have genetically modified seeds. But back in the day, people didn’t think to try to save the seeds of some these varieties. They just planted what seeds they had and ate what the plants produced. If there was extra, they would store it for later. They wouldn’t try to actively save the seeds. One of the biggest reasons that seeds seed varieties died out was because of travels. Many people traveled and didn’t know that seeds were attached to their coats, shoes or other forms of clothing. The seeds fell of the clothing and grew. People didn’t know where these seeds came from and therefore could not document to what they were. When the plant grew, people didn’t try saving the seeds from the plants. The picture below is variety of white tomato that might resemble the white tomato of the 1920’s.
There are two main types of seeds that can’t be saved well: hybrid seed and heirloom seeds. Hybrid seeds are modified in the laboratory to produce a specific type of product. These seeds can be saved, but the seeds saved will not produce exactly what you originally had or they will not produce anything at all. This means that the seed is infertile. The seed had a “copyright”built into it so that amateur gardeners can’t replicate the outcome exactly. The other type of seed is the heirloom seed. This type of plant is grown in a similar area for many generations. The seeds of an heirloom variety can be saved, but it is best that they are planted in an area similar the the area that their ancestors were grown in.
One way to choose seeds to save is through selective breeding. Selective breeding is when the grower saves the seeds of the best plant or produce for use the next year. This method of saving helps the grower produce the best quality of produce each year. This also helps eliminate the poorer quality plants from the lot. People tend to buy the best looking plants and produce, so the grower that uses selective breeding makes more money that a grower that plants seeds and hopes for the best.
Another way to weed out the bad plants is to use crop diversity. Crop diversity is just the general term that groups both amateur growers and professional breeders. Amateur growers use selective breeding in their gardens. They choose what plants they want. If they like the outcome of that plant, they will save some seeds from it or buy the plant again next year. Because of amateur growing, we have many different varieties of cabbages. The other way to have crop diversity is by professional breeders. They restrict the breeding of certain seeds and plants by patents. These breeders manipulate factors in a laboratory to make the plants suitable to grow in different climates. This manipulation gives growers in the Southwest a different variety of the same plant or seed than the Midwest.
Seed banking is the active saving of seeds from the best plants from the current growing season for use in future growing seasons.