ECHOcommunity Conversations

Grass seed bulk

Hi, I’m based in Zimbabwe with a reforestation organisation. We’re starting to include Grasses. The scale is huge, see image of just one tree seed variety. The current practice is to store seeds in ash. Has anyone done any experiments with not cleaning grass seed before storing it, how much does the germination rate drop off there is duff and bits of soil etc included? It would certainly save us a lot of time if we didn’t have to clean it, just keep it rat proof. Any other tips on grass seed appreciated.

Beth, that doesn’t really seem like much seed. By comparison a typical subsistence farm are here in Honduras would typically be storing 5 to 10 times that amount of corn and beans. The family would rather quickly clean the seed by winnowing. It’s a fairly simple and quick process. Some would use an electric fan and others would just use the afternoon breeze.

If it were me, for sure I would want to clean it if for no other reason… for better uniformity when planting. Plus it would seem logical that it would help it in storage. There’s a fair amount of information on the site regarding storage practices so I’m just focusing on cleaning. Among other things after cleaning, you’ll be storing a smaller quantity and that will make the job easier.


Thanks for your thoughts. I guess I meant it’s a lot of seed compared to regular seed-banks with where vacuum-sealing and glass jars are practical. As it is, I agree it would save space to do some even basic cleaning/dressing. My question is more in terms of time vs. importance of dressing to a high level. If anyone has done viability or germination tests/trials on seed which has only had a basic clean vs. very cleaned that would be useful data. Thanks.

Because other types of non-seed organic material like ashes are added to seed on occasion, I assume other sorts of material would not be a problem except it could house insects that eat seed. However, if you were going to store it as do many subsistence farmers do, in a metal barrel with and insecticide “pill” to keep insects out, I think the extra “trash” would not be a problem. The two big factors in preserving seed are humidity and air. If the seed is sufficiently dry and the container seals out air with insecticide inside, you should be good to go.

Beth, this is from an ECHO doc on seed storage. It sort of touches on the topic of the presents of organic material. Glen

“The amount of oxygen can be further reduced in a number of ways. Air spaces between seeds can account for 40% to 60% (or even more) of the volume of the container, depending on the species. We can reduce this air by half by filling the spaces between the seeds with fine, dry sand, wood ash, or fresh Portland cement powder. The fine material is poured into the top of the almost-full bottle, which is tapped continuously until the bottle overflows and no empty spaces can be seen. This technique can also be used to fill empty space if there are not enough seeds to fill the bottle. If these materials are clean and dry (sand may need to be sterilized in an oven), our tests have shown that they do no harm to dry seed and they have been effective at controlling insects.”

This link to the ECHOcommunity collection on Seed Storage may be useful.

Do others have some thoughts on methods to store seeds?

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This quote comes from University of Kentucky ag school in a discussion of storing grain. While they are talking a much larger scale, it seems to have application for this topic. It basically says… cleaning and drying grain reduces insect damage.

"Store only clean, dry grain. A small percentage difference in moisture content can make a big difference in the probability of a damaging insect infestation. The optimum moisture content for stored grain is 12-13%. Most grain inhabiting insects require 13-15% moisture for maximum feeding and reproduction.

It is also advisable to clean grain before binning. Small pieces of dockage and cracked or split grain provide food for insects not normally found in whole grain. Even though most of these insects will not feed on whole grain, their biological processes produce heat and moisture which can greatly reduce the stored grain’s quality."

Thanks for all your help!! Much appreciated. Especially as grass seed is even less hardy than grains. I’m definitely taking steps towards a better system for our seed, watch this space. Thanks again, Beth.

I am curious which grass variety. I am greatly impressed with Mombasa. High protein, high yield, tolerates fire and drought and shade, highly palatable, capable of multiplying with a very low seed planting rate. Great for cut and carry systems.

I have offered to send a small package of seed to anyone who would like to grow it and can’t find it locally. It multiplies quickly. One seed will form a bush of maybe a 100 plants. That bush is not at all invasive because it doesn’t spread beyond the bush (just like vetiver) but the farmer can divide the bush into maybe 100 individual plants that can be transplanted. The seeds are sterile… another reason it’s not invasive.

If planting seed sounds contradictory to what I just said, seeds sold for seed are not sterile but those seeds produce plants that produce seeds that are sterile.

A few years back Feedipedia called it the plant of the future.

FYI except for occasionally buying a few kilos of the seed, I have no financial involvement in Mombasa seeds. I just like Mombasa.

It’s early days, but the aim is to save indigenous grass seed varieties of all shapes and sizes, 300+ varieties, all with different uses in soil stabilisation, grazing value, and soil remediation and cover.