To supplement your long term emergency food reserves, youâ€™ll want to be able to grow your own fruits and vegetables. In a worst case scenario, you want to whatâ€™s needed to be able to grow your entire food supply in your garden if necessary. To do so, you will need to properly store seeds for growing a variety of vegetables and grains.
Keeping your seeds dried and safe from insects will protect them and increase their lifespan, allowing them to maintain sprouting abilities for years to come. For example, wheat seeds that are properly stored with a low 10% moisture level will yield up to a 90% germination rate, producing crops that show to be healthy and plentiful. There are specific steps to take that will ensure that your seeds are stored safely.
The majority of crop seeds, when kept in dry storage, will keep for a minimum of one year. Keeping moisture levels low is crucial for seed survival, as even mild dampness will affect them. Add high heat temperatures to even slight moisture and the seeds will not survive. Onion seeds for example, can live for 15 years if they are stored properly away from moisture. However, if exposed to warm, humid air, they will die off in just a 3-4 short months.
Cold temperatures are more favorable for dry seeds. While many plants cannot survive extreme most of their seeds can. Wheat seeds for example, as long as they are exposed to no more than 10% moisture, can survive in temperatures as low as -320F, which is the temperature of liquid nitrogen.
Itâ€™s important to understand that seeds can also become too dry. The recommended moisture level depends on the type of seed, the temperature the seed will be stored in, and the length of storage. When looking at the safety of long term storage, recommended moisture levels for bean, corn, cereal grains and pea seeds is 13%. Soybean seeds are best kept at 12.5% moisture and flaxseeds should be stored at 10.5% moisture, provided they are stored in average conditions.
Gases also play a key role in successful seed storage. Two gases in particular, oxygen and carbon dioxide, significantly impact the quality of the enzymes in the seeds. Gases also affect a seedâ€™s chemical components. Long term storage of seeds can result in a boost in their metabolism which leads to the development of carbon dioxide. If excess carbon dioxide forms and begins to accumulate inside the center of the seed, it can cause damage to the seed.
If a seed begins giving off gas at an increased rate, it indicates that the life processes of that seed have been accelerated. If the carbon dioxide, a byproduct of respiration, is not used properly for growth of the seed, it will convert into heat. The heat raises the temperature in the container which can result in damage or death of the seed.
Bacteria and Fungi
It is common for bacteria and fungi to develop inside and on seeds. The two factors can have a significant impact on seed health. As mention above, seed respiration that elevates the seeds temperature can result in seed death. Sometimes seeds appear as though they have high respiration levels, when in actuality, the excess cordon dioxide and heat develops as a silt of bacteria or fungi that develops within the seeds kernels.
Certain bacteria, in order to survive and continue their life cycle, draw from and use up the seeds compounds. Some bacteria and fungi produce chemicals that destroy the seed, and others deposit enzyme secretions that soften the coating on the seeds, allowing air and water to penetrate the seed and cause internal seed damage. Because these micro-organisms cannot survive without water, maintaining a dry storage environment will prevent their growth.
Insects create a danger to seeds and an infestation can develop in many ways. The most common route of infestation occurs when the eggs are layer in the plant blossom. When this happens, the seed develops around the insect egg, and the egg lies dormant waiting for dampness and warmer temperatures to occur. The most effective way to eliminate the threat of insect infestation is to maintain proper temperature and moister levels. When low temperatures and low moisture levels are maintained,, insects can no longer feed, develop or reproduce. Most insects are unable to reproduce at temperatures of 65 degrees or less, and they stop feeding and go dormant in the 40-50 degree range. There are some mite species that are capable of reproducing at 40 degrees if the moisture level is high enough, generally over 12%.
Storing seeds requires planning and care. By taking the steps necessary to successfully store these living organisms, you can create a supply of sustainable food for years to come.