Germination Testing to Improve the Quality of Ecotypic Native Seed in the Northeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2022: $29,299.00
Projected End Date: 03/01/2024
Grant Recipient: The Hickories, LLC
Region: Northeast
State: Connecticut
Project Leader:
Dina Brewster
The Hickories, LLC

Information Products


  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Crop Production: plant breeding and genetics, pollinator habitat, seed saving
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Proposal summary:

    To strengthen our landscape, we need to start with a foundation of native plant seed, but not just any native plants’ seed; we need native plants uniquely adapted to a particular region known as ecotypes.  What makes the Eco59 seed collective unique is that participating farmers  are growing increases of ecotypic seed. Eco59 farmers, 11 farmers and counting, represent a critical link in an emerging supply chain of truly local native plants for the Northeast.

    As the farmers in this collective seek to meet the demands of this emerging market, we are concerned about the quality of our seed.  Standards for seed quality, defined by a germination test and resulting in a Percentage of Pure Live Seed (PLS%)  have not been determined for the Northeast. This project contributes to the generation of those standards.   

    We seek to create a shared and open data set that allows us to test the optimal harvest window for six of the ecotypic seed species we are producing. To do this, farmers of Eco59 will send seed samples to the National Forest Service Seed Laboratory to get PLS% on their crops during three different harvest windows and compare results.  Once the data is aggregated we can share this research with the Eco59 collective and any stakeholders working on habitat restoration and native plant production in the Northeast.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to generate data around seed quality as it relates to the timing of the harvest for six ecotypic seed crops.  For each species in production, farmers will collect three different samplings - an early, mid and late season harvest -  and compare the germination test results from their three collections.  This comparison of Percentage of Pure Live Seed (PLS%) will begin to set standards for seed quality among ecotypic seed production in the Northeast.  Over time, we will be able to measure our variable PLS% against these original metrics.  The result will be increased fluency and transparency among producers and end users about ecotypic seed quality and its application in restoration projects.

    Objective 1: Gather PLS% over three different harvest windows for six different species of ecotypic plants.

    Objective 2: Create a freely-available database for native seed farmers in the Northeast to view and discuss this data set to  determine optimal harvest times for their seed crops.

    • Activity 1:  Quarterly farmer calls to discuss collection, findings, and decision making around the seed harvest.
    • Activity 2: Dissemination of results to native seed stakeholders in the Northeast through our joint technical advisor partnerships with CTNOFA (Levin) and UCONN (Campanelli).
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.