A new seedbank is born at Saha Astitva

French researchers explain vacuum packing to farm staff  photo: P. Tafti
On Saturday 1st December, our two volunteer research students presented their findings, according to scientific research, on the best method to store seeds without refrigeration for small scale village seed banks, suitable for India.The girls are specialized in seed science in Conventional Agronomy (large scale, mass produced, subsidised, mono-cropped, less nature-friendly) and they wanted to come to Saha Astitva Eco farm to understand the other side to farming – small scale organic agriculture in harmony with nature.During their time they worked out the best conditions to store seeds according to the environmental condition of the area. That is high humidity, large temperature swings and the usual bug and rodent problems.

Representatives came to the workshop from the organic farming movement and Warli adivasi farm employees were  introduced to the system.

Traditional methods were discussed, such as using ash, gober (cow dung), neem, mud pots etc. All with the scientific reasons why they do and don’t work.  Their findings could be adapted to these systems.

We were left with a new system requiring low-cost vacuum packing (to stop moisture, fungi and bugs in the seeds), hermetic sealed boxes (to stop new bugs coming in), a metal trunk  (to stop rodents) and for it to be stored underground or in a shaded area where there are less temperature fluctuations.

We were also given lessons in basic seed genetics and reproduction including the difference between open pollination/ village varieties, all the way through to hybrids.  We were taught how to bring diversity back from hybrids and what we are allowed to do according to existing laws and proposed laws.  We were informed how many plants to select from to maintain diversity, how to dry the seeds so as not to destroy them and more insights into GMOs.  They left us with 40 data sheets, 1 for each variety we grow on the farm with specific collection and saving instructions.

We are now implementing the system as an experiment.  The results will be clear within 1 year.

Anyone wishing to try the experiment at the same time, or volunteers to translate the sheets into marathi please contact us!

Thank you to Debora and Amelie for their dedication and intentions.  While they are returning to conventional agriculture (Debora to work in tomato genes for her PhD in the US and Ameilie breeding strawberry and raspberry varieties in France .. “to have nutrition, not just taste and colour!”  The girls would love to see clarity and dialogue between the two extreme ends of agriculture.  They believe both have their places and neither should be a threat to each other. Great thought girls!