As with agricultural crops, seeds of superior plants and trees produce offspring plants having the enhanced features of the parents. The seeds of such superior shrubs and trees are better, both by way of their own physical quality and by way of growing into trees and shrubs with the desired quality themselves. These plants show better survival traits as well. They also produce greater number of fruits and hence have a high productivity.
How to choose a seed?
To collect seeds effectively, the plants having superior traits need to be identified first. This can be done by the general characteristics as well as by the leaf, stem, bud etc. Once identified these trees must be marked with a weather resistant paint. As a collector, you need to be aware of the ripening and maturing time of the plant making it easier to plan the seed collection well in advance. Seeds should be collected when they are almost mature. With maturity the water content of the seed goes down and the seed dries up. The immature seed has high moisture content (almost 60%) while the mature seed has only about 10%. If a seed is mature, it wonâ€™t get squashed when pressed between the thumb and forefinger.
How to store the collected seeds?
Seeds often need to be dried after collection to prevent them from rotting. So it is advisable to store them in a well ventilated place, in paper mesh bags. Seeds dry well when allowed to dry in the plant material itself. Exposure to very high temperature could spoil the seeds rather than mature them. After maturation, the seeds must be stored in a dry environment, free from the plant material which was used to dry the seeds. This material contains moisture (including the moisture it has absorbed from the seed, facilitating the seed to dry) and may rot the mature seeds.
The dried seeds are then sent for cleaning. The cleaning process involves threshing which can be done in a various no of ways such as thrashing the seed bag on a hard surface or pressing them between bricks etc. This threshing process removes the chaff, which can be blown away or screened by a cloth.
These cleaned seeds must be then stored in low moisture, low temperature environments. Refrigeration is ideal as the environment is lower in moisture and temperature than the normal room environment. Using a zip lock bag is ideal to keep out the moisture. This increases the life span of the seeds. To use these stored seeds effectively, you might need to label the bags in which they are stored and keep proper record of the variety, the area from which these were collected and the collection date.
Seeds are living organisms and hence require care but seed collection is neither elaborate nor cumbersome. On the whole, seed collection from superior strains of trees and shrubs is very rewarding since it makes way for a whole new season of better forestry.