Q&A

DEAR NEW FARM:

Does the use of silica gel in lettuce seed storage negatively impact germination? How best to store lettuce seed? How best to test seed germination? I use seed from commercial houses like Seminis and store it in a refrigerator in air-tight bottles containing silica gel; 100 grams of seed would be used over a four-month period. Three problems experienced over this period have been: 1) declining germination from 90 percent to about 30 percent; 2) later start-up of germination; 3) protracted germination.

Thank you,
William Rolle

 

DEAR WILLIAM:

Our head gardener Eileen Weinsteiger, who has been tending our Children’s and Demonstration Gardens for 33 years, tells us:

I have a friend who collects and saves lettuce seed. All he does is collect the tops of the plants before the seed shatters in the garden on a dry day. He places the stalks in a bucket and allows them to dry for two to three weeks. He then runs the seed through a corn grinder; this does not damage the seed and it helps to clean it. He then places the seed on a screen to minimize the dirt and debris. After this process, he places the seed in brown envelopes. The envelopes are kept in his cool cellar (60°F). He never used silica and says his saved seed exhibits good germination for approximately three years.

Eileen Weinsteiger

 

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