Submitted to: Native Plants Journal
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/24/2004
Publication Date: 4/1/2005
Citation: Jones, T.A. 2005. Native seeds: their genetics, adaptation, and use. Native Plant Journal.
Interpretive Summary: Many users of native plants are unfamiliar with plant material development, genetics, seed certification, and the workings of the seed industry. This paper provides a scientific background to facilitate an understanding of the opportunities and pitfalls that may be encountered in the use of native plants. An educated consumer will use plant materials more intelligently in a scientific manner. This will contribute to the growth and maturation of the native seed industry and counter unscientific influences that limit its potential.
Technical Abstract: To make intelligent choices in the marketplace, the native seed consumer should have a working understanding of genetic principles and terminology as they apply to self-pollinated, cross-pollinated, and apomictic plant materials. The consumer should understand when inbreeding and outbreeding depression are legitimate concerns, comprehend the utility of various types of releases, be knowledgeable of seed certification and testing procedures, and be aware of potential pitfalls of seed increase such as genetic shift. Ideally, plant material selection involves the consideration of geographic (ecoregions, precipitation, winter hardiness, soil type, etc.), genetic (molecular markers), and adaptation (field testing) data. However, options for plant material are typically limited. Choices must be made between materials that are natural or bred, released or custom grown, cultivars or germplasms, local or non-local, and single-origin or multiple-origin. The plant material developer strives to understand the differences in adaptation of different polyploid chromosome numbers and genetically distinct groups of populations as defined by DNA markers. Geographic and molecular marker methodologies are beginning to be used to develop materials that are better adapted and genetically appropriate. The National Plant Germplasm System stores plant germplasm ex situ to be made available to future generations, but in situ conservation also is important for native species because it permits material to be continually subjected to evolutionary forces within an ecosystem context.