Seeds from domestic
crops (inner circle) are usually larger, lighter in color, and more uniform
than their wild relatives. Clockwise from top: Peanuts, corn, rice, coffee,
soybean, hops, pistachio, and sorghum. Click the image for more information
ARS Workshops Boost Public Seed
Project By Luis
Pons August 13, 2004
Workshops run by the Agricultural
Research Service are a big part of a collaborative crop-seed breeding and
production effort aimed at small-scale growers in the northeastern United
The Public Seed
Initiative is an on-farm breeding and seed-production project involving the
ARS Plant Genetic Resources Unit (PGRU) in Geneva,
N.Y.; Cornell University's departments of
plant breeding and horticulture; the Cooperative Genome Project of the
nonprofit organization Oregon Tilth;
and the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of New York.
According to PGRU plant geneticist Larry Robertson, the project
connects small seed producers with seed companies, university researchers,
nonprofit groups and government agencies. It also seeks to improve distribution
of new vegetable varieties, spread knowledge about small-scale commercial seed
production and plant breeding, improve regional growers' capacity to provide
commercial-grade seed and produce vegetable varieties specially adapted to the
needs of organic and regional market farmers.
The project's series of full-day, hands-on workshops cover all aspects
of seed cleaning and processing. The centerpiece of the sessions is a mobile
seed-processing unit equipped with many small-scale, seed-cleaning devices.
This year's first workshop takes place tomorrow in Amherst, Mass., at
Summer Conference from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Other workshops are scheduled for
Sept. 8 at the Green Thumb in Water Mill, N.Y.; Sept. 14 at PGRU in Geneva;
Sept. 24 and 25 at the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, Maine; Oct. 7 at
Lockwood Farm in Hamden, Conn.; Oct. 22 at Peacework Organic Farm in Newark,
N.Y.; and Nov. 8 at Gorzynski's Ornery Farm in Cochecton Center, N.Y.
Preregistration is required for most of these workshops. Information
is available online at http://www.plbr.cornell.edu/psi, by
phone at (315) 787-2396 and by e-mail at
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.