Establishment and Evaluation of Founder Plots for Native Seed Production

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2022: $29,854.00
Projected End Date: 03/15/2025
Grant Recipient: Native Plant Trust
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Alexis Doshas
Native Plant Trust


  • Additional Plants: native plants


  • Crop Production: pollinator habitat, seed saving
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement
  • Production Systems: other
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures, values-based supply chains

    Proposal summary:

    Plants grown from local ecotypic seed are genetically adapted to their environmental conditions, express resiliency in changing climates, and support a myriad of species that have coevolved in the landscape. The demand for local ecotypic seed and plants grown from local ecotypic seed in the Northeast is growing rapidly. Collection from wild populations alone cannot meet demand, and more importantly, not without inflicting stress and damage to the wild population. We must incorporate innovative practices to produce sustainable, diverse ecotypic seed. 

      We propose establishing and studying the efficacy and replicability of founder plots as a viable and sustainable native seed production method. Founder plots are cultivated rows or blocks of single straight species of native plants, grown from a diverse collection of wild collected local seed, for bulk seed production. We aim to build upon the work of other groups in the northeast to test, document, and disperse best practice protocols for founder plots to a wide variety of stakeholders, and create a standardized, easy to replicate model. We will help to usher in a new period in native seed production by leveraging our proven leadership in the procurement, production, and safeguarding of plant materials, with a special focus on the collection and retention of genetic diversity and adaptation to local environmental conditions.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We will develop study parameters for 5 founder plots, as well as templates for data collection and seed collection techniques, including best practices for viable native seed production. Concurrently, we will identify robust, wild populations of 5 target native species. Ripe seed will be collected, cleaned, evaluated, and stored appropriately at Nasami Farm facilities. Seed of our target species will be sown in early winter in our greenhouse production. In 2023, we will propagate our wild seed-grown seedlings to landscape plugs and once rooted, install in the prepared founder plots. Throughout the growing season we will record growth, care practices, seed development, and other relevant parameters. In fall 2023, we will collect seed, taking care to make several collections over the course of the seed production cycle to determine best practices. Seed will be evaluated for viability and germination tests will be conducted for each collection date. Data collection and seed collection will be replicated in 2024. In winter 2024/25 we will analyze our data, disseminate and publish our results in a digestible format. Through our study we will contribute best practices for native seed production for many stakeholders, including local farmers, community organizations, and nonprofit entities. 

    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.