Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A quick note on the Jade and Provider bean seed viability test

I had five of the twenty-five, 2014 Provider bean seeds germinate.

I had zero of the twenty-five, 2013 Jade seeds germinate.

It is too uncontrolled to speculate whether Provider's better performance was due to inherent genetics, better storage or higher initial viability.

The difference was great enough that it was probably not an artifact of small numbers. They were planted within 15" of each other.

Three of the Provider seeds pushed the "seed leafs" and stalled for a bit. My assumption is that the clump of cells that differentiates and forms shoots and true leaves was either resolving from undifferentiated cells or the clump was on the order of just a few, viable cells and it was taking a while to double^x to the point where I could see it.

So, how long can seeds last?

William J. Beal started an experiment in 1879 where he collected fifty seeds of many 21 weed species, placed them in glass bottles filled with beach sand. Then he buried the bottles unstoppered,mouth-down in nothing-special dirt in a discrete location to simulate weed seeds being buried by a moldboard plow.

I don't know what motivated Beal to put moth mullein in the experiment. I have never seen it be a weed in ag-crops but see it in partial shade along roads and paths. I don't know why but am glad he did.

One of those bottles was unearthed in 2020 and one species, moth mullein, still had 50% viable seeds 120 years after being buried and none of the others did.

We can deduce that moth mullein has some inherent, genetic advantage for longevity over the seeds of the other twenty species. It may be as simple as the seed coats of one variety absorbing atmospheric moisture more easily (i.e. hygroscopic) than the other, thereby subjecting the germ to greater excursions in moisture.

Clover, for instance, is notable for having "hard seed" that takes years to germinate. That confers an advantages should the weather be horrible the year after the clover makes the seeds. "Hard seed" might be due to impervious seed coats that require scarification or soil fungi to break down.

The reason I mention moth mullein is that there might be inherent, genetic differences in how long the seeds of various bean cultivars remain viable. My intention is to grow-out the Provider and save the seeds.


  1. As I under stand it, some varieties of bean seeds including one called Anasazi, were recovered from the ancient graineries of long abandoned pueblos in the South West!

  2. In 1989 I plowed one of my pastures and planted oats for a rotation to hay. I got a good crop of oats and a good amount of buckwheat also grew. I asked the very old farmer brothers down the road when the last time buckwheat had been planted in that field and they told me during World War I when buckwheat was bringing high prices to feed the troops and the horses in Europe. They would have been kids then but they both claimed to remember , ---ken

  3. How were the bean seeds stored?

    1. In a tool box in a basement in Michigan. About a foot above the floor.