Old Seeds

Cartledge, Murray & Blakeslee: Increased Mutation Rate from Aged Datura Pollen (1935)
The highest rate of pollen abortion mutations found in our aged seed experiments was 8.7% for 21 mutations in 242 plants grown from seven- to eight-year old seed.2 Experiments with heat and other factors (excepting strong radiation) have given lower rates from treated seeds. It seems clear, however, that higher rates have been induced by the use of aged pollen. A total of 29 pollen abortion mutations have been recorded in 193 plants from pollen aged for four to thirteen days, giving a mutation rate of 15.0 %. The 191 control plants, grown from the fresh seeds of a self (made with fresh pollen) on a sib of the plants used for the tests, showed no mutations.

Peto: Aging, heat and mutations in corn and barley (1933)
[Maize] Seed aged from one to six years of line II of this material was grown. In general there was a gradual decrease in germinability with the increase in age of the seed. There was a marked decrease in plant size and vigor in the plants from seed over a year old, and in addition a number of plants from seed lots over two years old were morphologically abnormal. Some were dwarfed and intensely green and died after reaching a height of a few inches; others were so heavily striped with chlorotic areas that they also died.

C.-A. Whittle: Aging of seeds (2006)
Seed bank persistence
The PBL was longer for the taxon with a persistent rather than a transient seed bank in 12 of 15 comparisons (P < 0.05). When including only the least divergent pairs, the taxon with a persistent seed bank had a longer branch length for eight of nine taxon pairs (P < 0.05). The results indicate that more mutations occur per unit time in taxa whose seeds undergo longer periods before germination. Although the role of seed aging in plant molecular evolutionary biology has received little attention to date, there is substantial evidence to suggest it affects the heritable mutation rate. For example, studies of variation in AFLPs and other genetic markers indicate that naturally aged rye (Secale cereale) seeds contain higher levels of point mutations than unaged seeds and that these mutations are transmitted to the progeny for at least three generations (Chwedorzewska et al., 2002a,b). It has also been shown that plants produced from older seeds contain higher levels of heritable mutations in Crepis (Gerassimova, 1935) and in Zea mays (Peto, 1933). In addition, pollen abortions (Cartledge & Blakeslee, 1934) and recessive visible mutations have been reported to be substantially higher in Datura plants produced from older seeds (e.g. pollen abortion increases from one to more than eight percent over 10 years, Cartledge & Blakeslee, 1934). These mutations in older seeds are likely caused by the inaccurate repair of DNA damage, such as strand breaks, which accumulate in a time-dependent manner in seeds (Cheah & Osborne, 1978) and/or by impairment of the DNA replication machinery over time. It has been shown that older seeds have a lower RNA and protein content (suggesting substantial degradation, Begnami & Cortelazzo, 1996; Reuzeau & Cavalie, 1997), reduced ability to translate RNA (Reuzeau & Cavalie, 1997) and lowered activity of enzymes (Basavarajappa et al., 1991) such as RNA poly (A) polymerase (Grilli et al., 1995; Reuzeau & Cavalie, 1997), each of which might negatively influence the level and/or activity of molecules involved in DNA replication and repair. The presence of a higher molecular evolutionary rate in taxa with extended seed longevity in the present results combined with the tendency of many heritable mutations to occur during seed aging suggests that seed bank longevity could play an important role in increasing the rate of molecular evolution in plants.
    These findings contradict the initial hypothesis that taxa with persistent seed banks would have a lower evolutionary rate according to the generation-time theory. Instead it appears that, on average, more heritable mutations occur per unit time during seed aging than during the lifetime of the plant (i.e. from seed germination to seed maturation). Given that most embryonic cells in seeds are in the resting stage during aging (G0/G1 stage, Georgieva et al., 1994; Vazquez-Ramos & Sanchez, 2003), the finding of higher evolutionary rates in taxa with persistent seed banks suggests that many mutations arise from replication-independent events in plants.

Richard Bradley: New Improvements of Planting and Gardening (1718)
All fresh Seeds of Melons and Cucumbers will produce much larger Vines than those Seeds which have been kept several Years. New Seed is apt to draw such plenty of Nourishment, that it is seldom prolifick; for too hasty thriving is ever an Enemy to Breeding or Prolificity. So on the other Hand, when I have sown Melon and Cucumber-Seeds of seven or eight Years old, the Vines have been close jointed, and more subject to produce Fruit.

Philip Miller: The Gardeners and Florists Dictionary (1724)
Mr. Collins says, Melon-Seed will retain its prolifick Quality, if it be kept dry, so as to grow at the End of twenty Years; but then before it be sown it must be steep'd in some Liquor that is not corrosive as Milk, or Mead, and that according to its Age. If it be six or seven Years old, it will grow pretty well without soaking; if it be ten Years old, twelve Hours will be enough; if it be twenty Years old, twenty four Hours.
    He says, that though Seeds of one or two Years old will not fail to grow; yet there is a Disadvantage in all such Seeds, that they will spend themselves too freely in their Vines without fruiting. And on the contrary, the superfluous Sap is very much corrected by the Age of the Seed, their Joints will be shorter, their Number greater, more hardy and better tasted.
    Mr. Bradley says, that all fresh Seeds of Melons will produce much larger Vines than those Seeds that have been kept several Years. That new Seed is apt to draw such Plenty of Nourishment, that it is seldom prolifick; for too hasty thriving is always an Enemy to breeding or prolificity: so on the other Hand, when he has sown Melon Seeds of seven or eight Years old, the Vines have been close jointed, and more subject to bear fruit.

Richard Bradley: Dictionaire Oeconomique (1725)
Melon Seed is in its own Nature, as durable and retains its prolifick Quality to as great an Age, as any known, for if it is laid dry, and so kept, it will grow at the End of twenty Years; but by Reason of such an Age before it is sowed, it must be steep'd in some soft Bed, that is not at all corrosive, as Milk or Mead, and that with Judgment both in Point of Time, and in Relation to its Age: If at the forementioned Age, it must be steep'd four and twenty Hours; but if at half that Age, then twelve are sufficient; and if at six or seven Years old, then five or six Hours will be enough; but at this last Age it will grow pretty well without soaking: Now the Reason of the Performance is, that the Kernels of the greatest Age, being so long kept dry, will consequently grow hard, and unless mollified by soaking, the chilling Quality having been so long laid asleep, will awake but slowly, and by the Moisture of the Bed, will rot before it can exert it self; and the same Reason for Seeds of different Ages will hold good in their Proportion: Seeds of one or two Years old will be sure not to fail in their Growth; but then the Disadvantage of all of them is, that they will spend themselves too freely in their Vines without fruiting, which superfluous Sap is mightily corrected by the Age ot the Seed, which when it has been sown more particularly at six or seven Years old, the Joint of the Plant will be shorter, and not only more in Number, but more hardy and better Fruit may be reasonably expected.

Philip Miller: Gardeners Dictionary (1735) vol. 2 p. 131
Melons: And first, as to the Choice of Seed: In this you must be careful, because the whole Success of your Labour and Expence depends upon it. You should annually (if possible) exchange your Seeds, and not continue to save and sow the same for several Years in the same Ground, for they will certainly degenerate in two or three Years, and from being extraordinary good Sorts, will become very bad; therefore you should purchase some good Melons from some Gardens at a great Distance from you; which Seed (provided the Fruit was well-tasted, high-colour'd, and of a firm Nature) should be carefully preserv'd two or three Years before it be sown, when it will not be so subject to produce strong luxuriant Vines, but will be more productive of Fruit, (for as I have observ'd, that by keeping these Seeds, they annually lose of their Weight: so it is certain, that the watery Parts do first evaporate; and these are what promote Luxuriancy in all Plants, therefore the more of these are lost by keeping, &c. the more fruitful will the Plants be): but it must be observ'd, that although these Seeds will retain their growing Quality for eight or ten Years, yet they are not near so good at that Age (whatever may have been said to the contrary); for the Plants produc'd from such Seeds are generally too weak to produce Fruit of any considerable Size, and Seed of three or four Years old is by the best Judges always preferred.
    But if you cannot obtain Seeds of that Age, and are oblig'd to sow new ones, then you should either carry it in your Breeches Pocket, where it may be kept warm, or plac'd at a proper Distance from a Fire two Months before it be sown; by which means the watry Parts will be carry'd off, and the Seed prove equally as good as if it had been kept two or three Years, as hath been experienc'd by several curious Persons.

Triewald: 42 Year-old Melon Seeds (1742)

AF: Charcoal for Wheat (1846)
Old seed out-yielded fresh 35 bushels/acre to 25 bushels/acre.

D'Amato, Ostenhof: Physiological Aspects of Seed Aging (1956)
The phenomena of reduced growth observed in all these cases seem to have much in common with the changes in morphological and physiological characteristics in vegetative plant parts, occurring in some species as a symptom of meristem aging.

The Garden 14(360): 342 (Oct. 12, 1878)
J.S.W.: New v. Old Mellona and Cucumber Seeds.
In a report of the meeting of the French Central Horticultural Society, printed in The Garden lately, it is stated that the subject which heads this paper was discussed, and some of the members expressed the opinion, based upon long practice, that new seed was the best, all things considered, to sow, an opinion, I have no doubt, which many English cultivators will corroborate, though it is well known that it was the practice of old horticulturists, as it is of many modern ones still, to sow old seeds of Melons and Cucumbers in preference in the belief that such produced plants that want "less to live," as they expressed it, and were more fruitful. So impressed were some cultivators with this notion, that when they could not procure old seed they used to convey the new about in their pockets for months before sowing, in the conviction that it dried it more quickly, and produced the same effect as age. I confess to having entertained the same opinion at one time, but long experience has convinced me that, as the French cultivators state, new seed is the best, particularly in the case of Melons, and I never sow seed that is more than two years old, and the previous year's seeds are preferred. I do not dispute the fact that old seeds produce less vigorous plants, but, everything considered, they are not the most fruitful. Plants from old seed are often so feeble that they can with difficulty be raised. They will not stand the hardships of early forcing like plants from fresh seeds and full of vigour, and they are the first to go off with disease, or become the prey of insects. As to their retaining sufficient strength and good foliage to produce a second or third crop of fruit, I should think very few instances are on record, but new seed will do this frequently, and the second crop is generally heavier, and it can be got in less time and with less trouble than by raising successive plants. Melons are rather an important crop with us, and this has been our experience. The effects of age upon seeds is to destroy its vitality, and old Melons, or Cucumbers, or Marrow seeds, though they may look well enough when sown, either rot in the soil or produce feeble plants; but, besides, there is no excuse for employing old seeds to produce moderately vigorous plants. The cultivator has his plants always under control, and he can prevent them making too strong growth by giving them a poorer soil and less of it. He can grow his plants in pots, for example, and treat them just as he has a mind. Fertility is, however, more a matter of sorts than of new or old seeds. There are some Melons which are fertile, and others that are not; indeed, the greatest difference exists between varieties in this respect, and it would be well if the fact had more weight with both growers and raisers of new varieties. A Melon may be good flavoured and all that, but if it be a shy bearer it is almost valueless, and that is the character of half the new sorts that are sent out. 

Percival, J. Agricultural Botany. p. 395 (1913)
The best yield of flax, so far as fibre is concerned, is said by some to be obtained from seed which has been carefully dried and kept in tightly closed barrels which exclude moisture for two or three years, experiments having shown that seed stored in this way gives longer stems and finer bast than fresh seed; others consider that the highest yield of fibre is secured from the fully ripened seed, harvested from a crop raised from ‘barrel’ flax.

Gardening Illustrated 4:344 ( Sept. 16, 1882)
Scorzonera running to seed.—Scorzonera often runs to seed when sown early, but April 5 is not too early for most districts. Old seeds may produce plants inclined to run, especially if grown in poor, dry land.— E. H.

Vegetable growing in New South Wales (1920)
Two-year-old [squash] seed will often be found to produce better results than new seed, which has a tendency to produce plants inclined to run too much to vine.

Transactions of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society (1884)
The superiority of old cucumber seed to new can be explained on scientific principles: when fresh they are fleshy, and contain pabulum which gives vigor to the young plant; but with age they get rid of the surplus food. Cucumbers and melons from old seed fruit a great deal better than from new: they are shorter jointed and flower at the third or fourth joint, while if the seed were fresh, they might not until the tenth joint. The seed of tuberous-rooted begonias drops easily, but by gathering it when green it can be saved, and by carrying in the vest pocket for four months it will dry gradually, and get rid of the surplus nourishment, and ripen. He had practised this for ten years. Many delicate seeds can be ripened in this way, and thereby get somewhat of the character imparted by age.

Annual Report of the Minnesota State Horticultural Society 20: 331-334 (1892)
HUBBARD SQUASH—The idea is, to get a rapid growth on the squash, and thus they soon get out of the way of the squash bug. It is a good idea to have squash seed kept over for two or three years—it would be better to keep it three years if you could. We have some saved ahead, but not enough yet. We think it is better to keep it over a couple of years. You get a stronger growth of vine from the old seed.

Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station pp. 212-213 (October, 1889)
DO OLD SEEDS OF CUCURBITS GIVE SHORTER VINES THAN RECENT SEEDS? There was no evidence whatever that older seeds give shorter and more productive vines. In fact, there was no uniformity of behavior between seeds of like ages. The largest vines in some instances came from oldest seeds, in others from the newest, and in others from those of intermediate ages. All this variation is evidently due to heredity of the individual seeds, or to conditions of growth of the immediate parents, rather than to age of seeds.

Jour Horticulture and Cottage Gardener 32: 256 (April 5, 1877)
SEEDS OLD AND NEW— No doubt many of your readers, with myself, have been struck with the apparent inconsistent teachings on the germination and results of seeds. We are often told to procure the oldest seeds we can of Melons, Cucumbers, Celery, &c.; and if we ask Why? the answer is, "They produce the best fruiting plants; they grow less to wood and more to fruit." Well, this is very good as regards Melons and Cucumbers; but it is not fruit we want from Celery—just the reverse; we want it not to go to seed, but to strong healthy foliage. Now if old seeds of Melons and Cucumbers produce fruit or seed sooner than plants raised from new seed, why not argue by analogy and say the same about Celery and such like? The Turnip is said to bulb better and is not so liable to run to seed when the seed is two or three years old. The same is said about the Beetroot and Mangold Wurtzel; if many bolt the explanation is, "Oh! new seed did it." The Cabbage, too, is reported to close more compactly and is less liable to go to seed if grown from old seed. I might cite many more instances, but the above will convey my meaning. I hope that this matter, which is at present enveloped in mystery, will be elucidated in the columns of the Journal.—B. G., Co. Down.

Brown: Old seeds and unripe seeds (1874)
From observations made at the instance of the Prussian Horticultural Society by Schmidt, Sprengel, D'Arenstorff, Treviranus, and Voss, it has been found, as a general result, that in the case of melons and cucumbers, the longest-kept seeds, though less certain to germinate, yet yielded the greatest amount of fruit; while new seed produced vigorous plants, which ran too much to leaf. M. Voss reared, from 24 seeds of a Spanish melon thirty years old, eight plants which gave good fruit. Cucumber-seeds 17 years old gave the same result; while some seeds of Althaea rosea (hollyhock) 23 years old afforded well-conditioned plants. It was found, by most of the above observers, that plants obtained from the seeds of the preceding year produced many leaves but few fruitful flowers, and almost entirely male ones; but that these same seeds, dried by the heat of the sun or of a stove, yielded a greater number of fruitful plants, and that it is particularly at the end of some years they acquire this property.

CybeRose note: In the case of chicory, it might make a difference whether one is growing the plants for leaf or head rather than for root.

Queensland Agricultural Journal, 13: 265-266 (1903)
Many growers prefer to use China Aster seed one or two years old, saying that by so doing they get more double flowers. But, above all, it is in the kitchen garden that it is necessary to know whether to choose young or old seed according to the species or variety. Thus, for beetroot and carrots, seed two years old should be used to let the root form better and keep the plants from running; for chicory and cabbages three-year-old seed, as then the plants shoot and ripen better. If we do not wish to let spinach, lettuce, or raddish run to seed, or differ from the type, we must use two-year-old seed. For corn salad it is necessary to use seed at least a year old, as seed gathered in June will scarcely grow if sown in the following September or October.
   In the Good Gardener [Le Bon Jardinier] for 1829 gardeners are recommended to sow melon seed several years old, the same rule applying to the other Cucurbitaceae.
   For early sowings of turnips it is necessary to use seed several years old to prevent the plants running to seed. The influence of time on the germinating value of seeds appears then to be a well-established fact, and, perhaps, it is hardly possible to account for this influence otherwise than by the theories I have put forward.

Abbey: Chicory (1863)
The seed should be new, for plants from old seed are more apt to run to seed than new.

The Pharmaceutical Journal (1845)
New [chicory] seed (fruit) we have been told, always yields more woody, and, therefore inferior roots than the old seed.

Gardeners' Chronicle: Old or New Seed (1921)
Another belief which would seem to be well founded is that the proportion of doubles may be increased in the cases of stocks and asters by sowing old seed. How ancient is this belief is illustrated by a citation, published in the Revue Horticole, from an old garden book of 1765, which runs: "Many amateur and professional gardeners are certain that stock seed kept for five or more years gives a larger percentage of doubles than does fresher seed."

Chaté: Double Stocks (1881)
As to the influence of old seeds on doubling, M. Chaté has noticed that the plants springing from two and three-year-old seeds are the dwarfest; the leaves are fewer in number, larger and thicker, and the bloom later; the spikes, thicker and shorter, are made up of flowers of such fullness that they are close and compact, and have the appearance of being more double. The colours are brighter and clearer than those of the plants springing from the seeds of the same year.

Western Garden and Poultry Journal (Sept. 1893)
C. L. Allen, of Long Island, N. Y, who is known as the leading cabbage seed grower in the world, read a very interesting paper on "Selection and its Relation to Seed Growing".
   "In this he brought out the difference between the selection for the largest yield of seed, as in wheat, oats, peas, etc., and its antithesis, as in cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, cucumber, etc., in which the best and most desirable specimens produce the least seed. The largest cabbage growers prefer the smaller or more shrunken seed, claiming that the large, plump seed is more apt to produce loose heads. They also think that cabbage seed three or four years old is more apt to produce solid heads. The same rule of old seed being better holds good in vine seeds, cucumber, melon, etc., as while they may not germinate quite as well they will produce more fruit and less vine.
   The question as to whether there had been any advance in the earliness of vegetables during the past thirty years was also discussed at length, and it was claimed by some of the oldest seedsmen present that there had not been one day gained in time of maturity. The subject of growing seeds in the north was also discussed at length, and many experiments were related showing that the retrograde in quality from growing in the north was more than the advance gained in earliness, if there was any gain. For instance, melons grown in the far south are much sweeter, and they seemed to become more tasteless each year that they were grown in the north, unless southern stock seed was used. A great change of opinion has been taking place during the past few years, and now New York City market gardeners want even southern grown seed potatoes, claiming that they will produce larger crops. Prof. Witmarck, of Germany, spoke favorably to southern grown seed, saying that much of their best seed was grown in Italy, southern France, and even Algiers.

Popular Gardening p. 229 (July 1888)
Old Cucumber Seed; Why the Best?
The superiority of old Cucumber seed to new can be explained on scientific principles; when fresh they are fleshy, and contain pablum which gives vigor to the young plant at the expense of the fructifying powers; but with age they got rid of the surplus food. Cucumbers and Melons from old seed fruit a great deal better than from new; they are shorter jointed, and flower at the third or fourth joint, while if the seed were fresh they might not until the tenth joint.

Sessional Papers, House of Commons 9:90 (2 July 1900)
Mr. J. Harrison
3476. You made a statement with regard to the value of old seeds to the effect that, speaking of turnips and swedes, the old seeds produced a bigger bulb and less top than new seeds?—Yes.
3477. Can you prove that?—Yes.
3478. It is an extraordinary statement to make?—It is an every year's experience with us. I wish to go a little further than that, and point out that cabbages will heart much better from old seed and grow less outside leaf than they will from new seed, and broccoli will form a head from old seed better than from new seed.

Scottish Gardener 4: 521 (1855)
Vitality of Seeds.—In a recent number of the Scottish Gardener, mention is made of seeds having vegetated after being for 25 years coated over with paint. The celebrated Grimstone Pea, about which some fuss was made a few years ago, was brought to England by Sir Gardner Wilkinson from Egypt, who found the Peas along with the seeds of Wheat, Vetches, and some other seeds, enclosed in a vase dug out of a mummy pit, and believed to have rested there for 3000 years. Yet, after that long repose, several of the seeds of the Pea and Wheat vegetated in this country, and, for aught we know, their progeny may still be found in the seed-shops, under the name of Mummy Wheat and Mummy Peas. The vase in which they were found was presented to the British Museum, and opened with the same degree of care and ceremony that is usually displayed by archseologists in similar cases. Three of the Peas were presented to Mr Grimstone, of eye-snuff celebrity, who retained them in his possession from 1838, the year of their introduction, till 1844, when he sowed them, one of which only came up, but the plant throve, and produced 55 Peas the first season. The Mummy Wheat which made some noise at the same time, was produced from the same vase; and from these the stock was obtained. The seeds of Raspberries, taken from a Roman barrow a few years ago, in the neighbourhood of Dorchester, produced plants, which, I believe, are now cultivated in the London Horticultural Society's Garden at Chiswick; and I have seen, some years ago, a fine crop of black Oats, which came up in Bushy Park, where the ground had been deeply trenched, preparatory to forming a plantation, the seed of which is believed to have lain buried since the time some of Cromwell's cavalry were encamped on the spot. Another remarkable instance of the seeds' vitality is quoted in the Book of the Garden from the Annals of Natural History, relating to the discovery of the seeds of Polygonium, Convolvulus, Rumex acetosella, and a species of Atriplex found at the bottom of a sand pit 25 feet deep, about a quarter of a mile from Melrose, all of which vegetated. Without doubting the veracity of Mr Grimstone as regards his Mummy Peas and Wheat, or the caretaker in preventing fresh seeds of the other plants from getting into the soil in which the old seeds were sown, still we would say such extraordinary productions should be regarded with caution. It is not long ago since newspaper authority informed the world that in exhuming a Mummy supposed to have been one of the Pharoahs, that a bulb was found firmly clenched in the hand of the defunct monarch, which, when placed in the hands of a gardener, turned out to be a Dahlia! If such really was the case, then we may safely presume the ancient Egyptians had found their way to Mexico at that very early period; and further, that they studied the science of Botany, a circumstance of which we have met with no historical evidence, notwithstanding we are well informed of the great advance they had made in architecture, sculpture, and others of the fine arts. Of the vitality of seeds under ordinary circumstances, it is well known that the seeds of Melons will vegetate after 40 years; Maize 30; Rice 40; Mimosa sensitiva 60, &c., but these periods are only as of yesterday compared to 3000 or 4000 years. A. G., Glasgow.

Old Turnip-Seed. The Gardner (Dec. 1868)
Now that the seedsmen are going to be honest, allow me to give them a "bit of a hint" about the value of their old Turnip-seed—at the same time I beg to hint to them also that testimonials are fashionable. The fact is, and I mean to show it, that these amalgamators do not know the value of their old Turnip-seeds. So long as old seed will vegetate strongly, the value of new seed is in an inverse proportion to the value of the old seed for late sowing.

Deacon: Queensland Agricultural Journal (Aug. 1899)
Rust in Wheat—A Probable Preventative
But old seed has always produced crops having all the characteristics of rust-free wheat—namely, the crop stooled sparingly, the leaves were erect and narrow, and the straw tough and wiry, and the interval between blooming and ripening was in my opinion shortened. In my opinion also, the grain from crops produced my 2-year-old seed on being sown also produced an improved plant, and the improvement is not lost for several generations.

California Culturist (1859)
Vitality and Properties of Seeds.
If the seeds are old—and the older the better, so that they retain their vitality—the plants, whatever kind they may be, will exhibit a tendency to the production of that portion of the plant or tree that contains the seeds. The intelligent culturist takes advantage of this singular law in vegetable physiology, in the use of seeds that shall be best adapted to the production of seeds, fruit, stalk or haulm, as may be desired. We are by no means advocating the purchase or use of old seed indiscriminately, for we are well aware that it will not do to trust to the vitality of such seeds in all cases; and yet, if they will grow, the older the better if the object is seed or fruit. There are many kinds of seeds that retain their vitality much longer than others, and among these can be reckoned all the pumpkin, squash, cucumber and melon family. The seeds of any of these can hardly be too old if properly preserved; for not only do they retain their vitality, but they produce less vine and more fruit, the older the seed.

Fish: Jour. of Hort. (1864)
Old and New Melon Seed
The chief advantages of seeds one or two years old, therefore, over new ones are the less vigorous growth and the greater tendency to show fruit early. If the seeds are too old, so as to vegetate very slowly, and vigour cannot be imparted by rich nourishment, or the plants are too delicate to receive it, we arrive at the extreme of weakness—just as new seeds, if treated with rich compost, are apt to give us the extreme of luxuriance. Whatever checks the luxuriant production of stems and roots will insure earlier maturity. In old seeds the drying consolidates the carbon, and the starchy matter becomes to a certain extent converted into albumen; and this is less easily changed by moisture and the oxygen of the air into a sugary liquid than a starchy substance in the seed. On the amount of the sugary matter which the germinating seed can obtain will depend, in a great measure, the vigour of the young plant.

R. Lymburn: Gardener's Magazine, (Sept. 1840)
In growing stocks from seed, they will be more likely to be double, if the plants are checked first by a deficiency of nourishment, whether of water or manure, and afterwards excited to luxuriance by a plentiful supply; and the greater the change, the greater the likelihood of success. Old seed, or seed dried, as in melons, gives a check; we have had instances of old neglected seed, which had been reckoned very inferior when the seeds were fresh and new, come almost every plant double, when a little had been left over and sown when old. The seed for raising double flowers of any sort can hardly be too old, if it will grow at all; and the weak plants, first stunted, and then luxuriated, will be found most successful: the seed should be sown on heat, and the weak plants most cared for. After flowers have once been produced double or full, the habit of coming double will be retained, if kept so by rich cultivation.

Gulielma: The Floricultural Cabinet (1854)
Double Blossomed Stocks, &c.
In growing Stocks from seed they will be more likely to be double, if the plants are checked first by a deficiency of nourishment, whether of water or manure, and afterwards excited to luxuriance by a plentiful supply; and the greater the change, the greater the likelihood of success. Old seed, or seed dried, gives a check; we have had instances of old neglected seed, which had been reckoned very inferior when the seeds were fresh and new, come almost every plant double, when a little had been left over and sold when old. The seed for raising double flowers of any sort can hardly be too old, if it will grow at all; and the weak plants, first stunted and then luxuriated, will be found most successful; the seed should be sown on heat, and the weak plants most cared for. After flowers have once been produced double or full, the habit of coming double will be retained, if kept so by rich cultivation.

Genesee Farmer, 24(2): 88 (February, 1863)
The Balsam, or Lady Slipper, is well known. It has been greatly improved, and the flowers are now frequently as large and double as the rose. They should be transplanted once or twice, so as to check the growth of leaves, and favor the development of the flowers.

Farmer's Companion and Horticultural Gazette 1(4): 60 (April 1, 1853)
Pumpkins.—These vary much in productiveness and size. In planting, therefore, it is always well to procure seed from large, sound and unmixed plants. Old seed is more productive than that of the last year. There is a sweet pumpkin, which it would be advisable to introduce into field culture. The fruit is not as large as some other kinds, but under favorable circumstances it bears well, and must necessarily be more fattening than the common. The seeds of all sorts are probably more nutritious than the pulp. They are said to poison poultry, but we doubt it. A crop of pumpkins has been grown in Ohio, among potatoes, at the rate of 15 tons to the acre.

Jour Roy Hort Soc (1904)
Seeds, Vegetable: Age for Sowing (Rev. Hort. July 1, 1903, p. 304).—M. Georges Bellair, in a report on the Horticultural Congress at Paris, says that M. Grosdemange presented a paper on the advantage in many cases of sowing seeds several years old in preference to new ones; as, for instance, Carrots 2 years, less foliage, roots better colour; Endive 3 or 4 years, to prevent too early seeding; Spring Cabbage 2 to 3 years, for same reason, &c. His observations were confirmed by several authorities, with the general deduction that new seeds were best for free foliation, while with heart forming Cabbages, Salads, Melons, and Cucumbers, seeds 2 to 3 years old are preferable. Old seeds are also thought by M. Bazin to form a favourable factor in doubling flowers, and M. Opoix cited confirmative instances in Dianthus.—C. T. D.

Report on the Agricultural Experiment Stations 15: 249 (1904)
Is it more advantageous to use seeds the year they are harvested, or after several years preservation?
Grosdemange—(Rev. Hort. [Paris], 75 (1903), No. 13, pp. 304, 305).
This is an abstract of a paper read by the author at the Paris Horticultural Congress, May 22, 1903. It presents results of a preliminary study on the germination of seeds. The author states that in the majority of cases fresh seeds give best results, but with the following exceptions: With carrots, 2-year-old seed gives less leafy plants and more highly colored roots. The use of 3 or 4 year old chicory seed tends to prevent premature greening. With cabbage, the use of 2 or 3 year old seed tends to produce better heads than fresh seed. With gherkins, pumpkins, and melons, seed 2 or 3 years old is preferred; fresh seed produces too leafy vegetation. Likewise corn salad seed 2 or 3 years old is preferred to fresh seed. With radishes, fresh seed is preferred for outdoor soil, since it produces more robust plants, but seed 2 or 3 years old is preferred under glass because it produces a less leafy product.
    Commenting on these results, M. Bazin stated that fresh seeds should always be preferred when it is wished to produce plants with a strong leaf growth, while for plants which it is desired should head well, like cabbage, salads, melons, cucumbers, etc., it is preferable to use seeds 2 or 3 years old. With ornamental plants, particularly balsams, seed more than a year old tends to produce double flowers to a much greater extent than fresh seed.

McIntosh: The Book of the Garden (1855)
Balsams: Young seed produces too luxuriant plants, the majority of whose flowers will be single or only semi-double, and their colours inferior, and, strange enough to say, most of them bearing a close resemblance in the latter respect to their parent; whereas old seed—say from four to eight or more years—is used, the preponderance of the progeny will be double-flowered, and of great variety of colour.

E.S.: The Country Gentleman (January 1855)
Produce of Seed altered by Age. The practice of sowing old seeds of cucumber and melon in preference to new, (see Co. Gent. vol. 4, p. 379,) is a very general one among the gardeners of England. There is certainly a very marked difference in the growth from new and old seed—the former producing strong vigorous growth, consequently late in fruiting, while the old seed is proverbial among the "clan," for early and free productiveness. It is not at all uncommon for a gardener to have seeds of his own saving from some favorite sort, from six to eight years. Where so much winter forcing of these two plants is carried on, and often by the fermentation of manure alone, it is of the utmost importance to have sorts or seed highly productive.
    Balsam and cockscomb too, are undoubtedly better, that is, the balsams more double, and the comb finer from old than new seed. The almost spontaneous production in this country, of the things mentioned here, is probably the cause why they receive so little attention, while in England the whole of them require a great deal of care to bring to perfection.

Fish: Cottage Gardener 3: 345 (1850)
Balsams: Old seed will not produce such rampant plants as younger seed, but the colours will be finer and the flowers more double.

Stephens: The Book of the Farm, vol. 5 (1890)
Wheat: New or Old Seed.—The land being thus prepared for the seed, it is quite possible for a part of the new crop to be thrashed out for seed in time for sowing in autumn; but those who sow early cannot procure new seed, and must use the old. But although the new crop were secured in good time to afford seed for sowing in autumn, it is better to sow old wheat than new. New wheat germinates quicker than old, but is more easily affected by bad weather and insects; and consequently its braird [first sprout] is neither so thick nor so strong as from old wheat—that is, from seed of the preceding year; for very old wheat may have been weakened in vitality even in the stack, or been much injured by the weevil in the granary.

Pitter: American Farmer (1823)
On Preventing Smut [in wheat]
Hunton, October 5th, 1821.
Sir, Much has lately been written by respectable correspondents, and particularly Sir John Sinclair, in your Journal, giving various receipts to prevent the Smut and Mildew in Wheat: these, no doubt, are in many cases efficacious; yet, Sir, I venture to suggest, that if wheat were sown earlier, and clean dry old seed, we should hear little of Smut or Mildew. Of late years regular summer fallows have gone out of fashion, and green crops having been substituted, the wheat seed-time has been much protracted, besides, generally new and often damp seed has been sown; these, I have no doubt, are causes of Smut and Mildew, and hence the yearly increasing prevalence of those diseases in the grain. Allow me to say, from my own humble experience for fifteen years, that invariably old dry wheat, sown before October, has been free from Smut and Mildew, while the new wheat sown after that time has generally been more or less affected with those ruinous diseases. No two things, in my opinion, conduce so much to a good clean crop of wheat as a proper summer fallow, and old seed sown early. I find that I can grow more grain, and of a superior quality, from a good fallow and early sown old wheat, than with an additional coat of manure, and consequently nearly double the quantity of straw, if sown with new seed, and so late as November, even if the latter escape Smut and Mildew, which I find it never entirely does on my land. Still, however, from the superior value of a wheat crop, I am tempted to sow a few acres of turnip land, I mean turnips fed and folded by sheep, with wheat after old Michaelmas, and this season I intend sowing old grain. Should it prove affected with Smut or Mildew, in future I may try some of the steeps recommended in your Journal. I am of the opinion that all kinds of land would be better sown by the middle of October, varying the quantity of seed (the cleanest and dryest old wheat,) from two bushels to four, according to the quality and condition of the soil; the lightest and dryest soils to be sown thickest and earliest, and if possible with most rain, and trod firm with sheep, being first tilled fine; the strong and heavier soils to be left rather cloddy, and not trodden or closened by rolling or treading until the spring.
    I hope that I shall not be censured in adding, that these few observations are not the result of mere theory but of actual experience excepting so far as relates to the very best soils, which I have not had the good fortune to cultivate.
I remain, Sir,
Respectfully your's
Robert Pitter

Rocher: Agricultural Journal of the Cape of Good Hope 14(1):14 (January 5, 1899)
Preventing Rust in Wheat
St. Helena Fontein,
December 17th, 1898.
Dear Sir,
It will no doubt interest you to know that an experiment, as you suggested to me the other day, viz. to sow wheat 2 years old as a preventive against rust has by chance been made this year by Mr. Van Putten in the district of Clanwilliam. He (Van Putten) was here last night, and I mentioned to him what you suggested I should try. He then told me that he got about three bushels of seed wheat from a friend, which happened to be 2 years old, and that all the wheat sown on the same piece of land, some of his own and some of other farmers on the place (it being a maatschappij plaats), got rust, but that the wheat from 3 bushels of old seed is perfectly free from rust. He also told me that he sowed 1 bushel of wheat he got from Laubscher, but it is wheat Laubscher got from imported seed. According to his own description it must be "Valparaiso Koorn"; but the seed is also 2 years old. This wheat is now about 18 or 20 inches high and quite green yet, but has no rust, notwithstanding that all the other wheat on the same farm and same piece of land of new seed (1 year old) had rust. So this is a clear proof that sowing wheat of 2 years old must be a remedy against rust.
Yours, etc., P. Rocher.

Allen: Proceedings of the American Seed Trade Association (1902)
Old Cabbage Seed
It is an open secret that some of the truckers that grow cabbage largely for the New York market never use seed until its germinating power becomes greatly weakened. These men have the reputation of being the most successful growers in the country, and sell seed to their neighbors at an exorbitant price. To their shrewdness must be credited the fact of their giving to their neighbors new seed, which will not always give the desired results.
   The seed these growers use would be discarded by any dealer, and by those who seem to have authority to place the value of all seeds upon the test of germination

The Kitchen Garden (1855)
Cucumber seeds preserve their vitality for many years. Old seeds are believed to produce plants that are more fruitful and less luxuriant in growth than those from new seeds. When old seeds are not to be had, gardeners give them an artificial age by wearing them in their pocket. The seeds of these, and of other tender plants that are raised in hotbeds to be subsequently planted out, are best sown in shallow pans, filled with a mixture of well-rotted manure and light loose earth: leaf mould is excellent for the purpose. The reason is the same as for pricking out celery-plants on a stratum of earth on a hard surface; i.e. the tap-root soon gets checked, and then lateral fibres are shot out, which makes the roots generally more fibrous and bunchy, and therefore better adapted for transplanting, than if sown in a deep pot.

The Floricultural Cabinet 2: 292 (1834)
On Balsams.—To the enquiries of your correspondent "C." July 9th, respecting the cultivation of Balsams, I beg to reply that on the age of the seed I place my reliance for the success in flowering. Contrary to most other plants, balsam seed requires to be kept some years before it is sown; and I have now some very healthy plants with good double flowers, raised from seed which I gathered in 1829. F. M., Southampton, August 11th.

The Floricultural Cabinet, 194-196 (August 1854)
Double Blossomed Stocks, &c.
In growing Stocks from seed they will be more likely to be double, if the plants are checked first by a deficiency of nourishment, whether of water or manure, and afterwards excited to luxuriance by a plentiful supply; and the greater the change, the greater the likelihood of success. Old seed, or seed dried, gives a check; we have had instances of old neglected seed, which had been reckoned very inferior when the seeds were fresh and new, come almost every plant double, when a little had been left over and sold when old.

Jour. Roy. Hort. Soc. 25: clxxx (1900)
Fruit from old Melon-seed.
—Mr. T. Sharp, Westbury, Wilts, describes his experience in raising Melons from old seed as giving better results than from young seed. His observations, which entirely confirm those of previous observers, are as follows:—"In a small Melon-house I noticed two plants which were very vigorous, and survived the first crop. They produced a good second crop of female flowers, but somewhat smaller, as were the male flowers, than usual. In the same house was a batch of young plants with good male blossoms. I fertilised the females of the older plant with the pollen from the younger. The crop of fruit was nearly double that of the first. The fruits were large and of excellent quality throughout. A year or two afterwards, having to supply ripe Melons in May and onwards, and having noticed that plants from old seed produced a less succulent growth than did those from young seed, for four years I raised my plants from old seed, always growing a few plants from new seed. I then fertilised the female flowers of the older plants with the pollen of the younger, which plants were invariably the more robust. The resulting fruits were more reliable in good quality, and though the female flowers had been small, the fruits were large, weighing from 3 to 7 lb." Professor Henslow has given very similar experiences on the Continent in his "Origin of Floral Structures," page 247. M. F. Cazzuola, in addition, found that Melon-plants raised from fresh seeds bore a larger proportion of male than female flowers; while older seed bore more female flowers than male.

The Origin of Floral Structures (1888)
George Henslow: The Origin Of Sex.—If now the environment has been proved to exert potent effects upon the development of the sexual apparatus of flowers, there still remains the question how far is either sex or both present, or at least potential, in the embryo. Marked differences have resulted from sowing fresh or well-matured and older seeds of melons. M. Arbaumont found that young seeds gave rise to plants of extraordinary vegetative vigour; moderately aged ones gave rise to corresponding moderately vigorous plants with both male and female flowers; while older seeds gave rise to still less vigorous plants, but which, when properly nourished, formed female buds.* M. F. Cazzuola† also found that melons raised from fresh seed bore a larger proportion of male flowers than female; while older seed bore more female flowers: and this has been confirmed.
    Another interesting result was obtained by M. Triewald, who grew twenty-one out of twenty-four melon seeds which were forty-one years old. The branches were very narrow, yet they produced early and plenty of good melons.‡ A cause of the differences of vigour in the plants raised from seeds of different age is, perhaps, connected with the fact that fresh melon seeds contain a neutral oil, which becomes more and more acid by keeping. This increased acidity coincides with a diminished germinative power;§ and proportionately, therefore, less liable to run into excessive vegetative growth.
    *Bull. de la Soc. de Bot. de Fr., 1878, p. 111.
    †Bull. de Tuscan. Hort. Soc., 1877.
    ‡Gard. Chron., 1879, p. 470.
    §M. Ladureau in Ann. Agronomiques. Mr. Darwin also found that fresh seeds of Iberis grew at first more vigorously than others (Cross and Self-fertilisation, etc., p. 103).

Queensland Agricultural Journal,  13: 265-266 (1903)
Seeds Which Should Not Be Sown Fresh
The statements concerning old seed have been confirmed in this State, especially in the case of cucumbers, cabbages, melons, &c. We have clearly proved it ourselves with broad beans. Nearly three years ago we sowed a plot of beans, and had a fair crop. The balance of the beans was put away and forgotten until last April. Then they were sown, and the result has been a splendid crop of beans, the haulms measuring between 3 and 4 feet in height.

Queensland Agricultural Journal 5: 162-164 (1 Aug., 1899)
Rust in Wheat—A Probable Preventive
W. Deacon
... old seed has always produced crops having all the characteristics of rust-free wheat—namely, the crop stooled sparingly, the leaves were erect and narrow, and the straw tough and wiry, and the interval between blooming and ripening was in my opinion shortened. In my opinion also, the grain from crops produced my 2-year-old seed on being sown also produced an improved plant, and the improvement is not lost for several generations.

The Gardener p. 548 (Dec. 1868)
Old Turnip-Seed.
Here is a proof that "old Twig's uncle" knew this secret, hitherto unknown by the seedsmen of our time, as he carried new Melon-seeds in his pocket for months before sowing it, to make the young plants believe that they had come of old seed. Had our seedsmen known that old Turnip-seed "bulbs" more quickly than plants from new seed, we should have had old seed advertised for late sowing at a higher price than that for new seed.

Experiment Station Record, 45: 352-353. (1921)
Bacterial blight of beans,
C. W. Rapp (Oklahoma Sta. Bul. 131 (1920), pp. 39, figs. 17).—The results are given of a technical study of the bacterial blight of beans due to Bacterium phaseoli, in which the author describes the field characteristics of the disease under Oklahoma conditions, presents evidence regarding the means by which the organism passes the winter and the modes of infection and dissemination, and gives practical means for the control of the disease.
    Considerable variation was observed in the susceptibility of different varieties of beans.
    In the experiments for the control of bacterial blight various methods were tested. Bacteria were found to survive the winter in, or on, the seed, in the soil, and on bean straw. Spraying proved of no value as a control measure, and seed treatment by chemicals, hot water, and dry heat was found impracticable on account of the effect the treatment had on the germination of the seed. Pod selection was found to have some advantage, and the planting of blight-resistant strains of beans is recommended. The most practical method of control appears to be the use of old seed, no disease appearing in any of the plants where two or three-year-old seed was planted. In germination tests of a considerable number of varieties of beans it was found that the percentage of germination did not diminish materially until seed was more than three years old.

Journal of Horticulture, 7: 230-231 (September 20, 1864)
Old and New Melon Seeds
R. Fish
Plants from old seeds will generally grow much more slowly at first, and have a tendency in similar circumstances to be of a more short-jointed growth, and will, as a general rule, give less trouble in disbudding and setting. Though, therefore, if we suit our practice to circumstances there will be little ultimate practical difference, we can see the wisdom of our old gardeners in carrying new Melon and Cucumber seeds in their pockets some time before sowing, and thus, by the heat of the body drying the seeds, placing them in much the same position as older seeds as respects their growth.

Vick's Monthly Magazine, 2: 176 (June 1879)
Old Melon-seed.—The foreign journals are talking about experiments with melon seed thirty and forty years old. The vines made a very small growth, and flowers were produced almost as soon as the plants were out of the ground, but the crop of fruit was very fair.

The Theory and Practice of Horticulture, p. 105 (1855)
John Lindley
Although a seed, if fully formed, is in all cases capable of perpetuating its race, yet there is a difference in the degree to which this capability extends. All seeds will not equally produce vigorous seedlings: but the healthiness of the new plant will correspond with that of the seed from which it sprang. For this reason, it is not sufficient to sow a seed to obtain a given plant: but, in all cases where any importance is attached to the result, the plumpest and heaviest seeds should be selected, if the greatest vigour is required in the seedling; and feeble or less perfectly formed seeds, when it is desirable to check natural luxuriance. It is apparently for this reason, that old Melon seed is preferred to new; for the latter would give birth to plants too luxuriant for the small space in which the Melon can be cultivated, under the artificial circumstances required in this country.

The California Culturist, 1: 471-472 (1859)
Vitality and Properties of Seeds
...when new and fresh seeds are employed, we may expect a strong, vigorous growth of wood, stalk or haulm. If the seeds are old—and the older the better, so that they retain their vitality—the plants, whatever kind they may be, will exhibit a tendency to the production of that portion of the plant or tree that contains the seeds. The intelligent culturist takes advantage of this singular law in vegetable physiology, in the use of seeds that shall be best adapted to the production of seeds, fruit, stalk or haulm, as may be desired.

Queensland Dept. of Agriculture and Stock, Bulletin 2 (March 1894)
Rice Growing
R. W. McCullough
Too much attention cannot be paid to a choice of seed; only good seed from vigorous plants should be selected. Age has to be considered as well in selecting seed. Both new and old seed have to be avoided. Seed about twelve months old is reckoned the best. New seed will come up soon, and grow rapidly, but will give a very light crop; old seed will either not germinate or give a very straggly crop and weak plants. Good seed not only gives an increased yield per acre but produces a hardier plant—one less liable to the attacks of parasitic or other diseases. Another matter not to be lost sight of in selecting seed is to see that it is pure, of one variety only, not mixed, otherwise an unsatisfactory crop is the result.

Jack's Education: Or How He Learnt Farming, p. 78 (1879)
Henry Tanner
They were also testing the influence of using 1 and 2-year-old seed upon the quality of the produce. They had been led to adopt this course because it had been noticed that 2-year-old seed was firmer and more steady in its growth, and therefore less liable to be checked in its growth, producing thereby mildewed crops. One-year-old seed, on the other hand, made more rapid progress, and was predisposed to a "necky" growth, and "to run to seed," especially when they used stimulating manures. Mr. Nicholson had led them to expect that this more vigorous growth of the 1-year-old seed might be useful in some cases, especially when they were using the manure in a slowly soluble condition, whereas it increased the danger to the crop when such seed was used with manure of a very soluble character. In such cases the manure and the seed both encouraged rapidity of growth. The views Mr. Nicholson had previously pressed upon them, as to the desirability of securing a steady and uninterrupted growth until the cells of the plant had been well filled with food, had been quite accepted in that neighbourhood as the right and proper course for adoption. The experiments of the previous year practically settled the correctness of that system in a manner they were not likely to forget; and the trials of the present season were intended to be in general a repetition, with the provisions named as to the seed.

American Agriculturist, 7(6): 169 (June 1848)
Precautions Against the Turnip and Cabbage Fly
A. B. Allen
Mixing equal parts of old seed with new, dividing one half and steeping it in tepid water 24 hours, and then mixing it again with the dry seed, has often been tried with good effect. By this means, four different times of vegetation are brought about, and consequently as many chances of escaping the ravages of the fly.

A plain and easy introduction to the knowledge and practice of gardening (1798)
Charles Marshall
Commonly speaking new seed is to be preferred to old, as growing the more luxuriantly, and coming up the surer and quicker. This circumstance induces some private persons to save their own seed (a practice not altogether to be recommended) that they may not be deceived in buying old for new seed: But this trick of trade it is to be hoped not practised by every seedsman: Yet a little mixture of old seed is sometimes proper, because if the new is perhaps cut off, and the old may be saved, by being a day or two later in coming up.
   If old seed is knowingly sown, some allowance in point of time must be made. Peas and beans of two years old, are by some preferred to new, as not running so much to straw. And cucumbers and melons are reckoned best to be of several years age, in order to their shooting the less vigorously, and so becoming more fruitful, and take up less room: But this principle is maintained extravagantly by some gardeners, who say these seeds can hardly be too old, and will allow ten years to be within bounds; three for cucumbers, and four for melons however is best.

Annals of Agriculture and Other Useful Arts, 12: 341-342 (1789)
Mr. Thomas Barnes, of Leeds, August 20, 1788
Turnips from seed of the last year's growth are the most vigorous, and get sooner out of the way of the fly and other destroyers, than those from old seed do. But I am fully convinced, that if a sure preventative was established, seed two or three years old would then be much more preferable; as the tops from such old seed would not be so large as those from new seed; and the bottoms would be larger and firmer, and less liable to be hurt by wet or frosts in winter: but seed from transplanted turnips is the best. I would recommend a small quantity of seed, more than is generally allowed to an acre. I would also recommend the practice of some farmers, who when they perceive the turnips destroyed in any part of their fields, immediately sow such parts with seed of the early stone turnip; if those places be small, they rake the seed in with a garden rake, if large, they use the harrow. This sort of turnip comes to maturity sooner than the common turnip, and may be sown twenty days after the first sowing.

The Modern Husbandman, vol. 2, p. 77 (1744)
William Ellis
Old [Clover] Seed is longer taking Root, and its Leaves bitterer than those from new Seed.

Johnson: Old, Unripe, Dwarfed Seed (1868)
Results of the Use of long-kept Seeds.—The fact that old seeds yield weak plants is taken advantage of by the florist in producing new varieties. It is said that while the one-year-old seeds of Ten-weeks Stocks yield single flowers, those which have been kept four years give mostly double flowers.
   In case of melons, the experience of gardeners goes to show that seeds which have been kept several, even seven years, though less certain to come up, yield plants that give the greatest returns of fruit; while plantings of new seeds run excessively to vines.

The Suburban Horticulturist, p. 243 (1842)
John Claudius Loudon
The water requisite to cause old seeds to germinate should be more gradually given to them, than that given to vigorous young seeds; because the power of absorbing water in old seeds is not diminished in the same proportion as their power of decomposing it. When old seeds are placed in moist soil, they are consequently very liable to rot; more especially, if the temperature be not somewhat higher than new seeds of the same species usually require. Hence, old seeds should be sown in a much drier soil than new seeds, and should be supplied with water much more sparingly, or left to absorb it from the atmosphere. Very old seeds will, however, sometimes germinate quickly by being steeped for some days in warm water; and M. Regel mentions an instance of this, with regard to some very old seeds of Umbelliferae. In the botanic garden at Bonn, in the spring of 1838, four pans were sown with seeds, full ten years old, of Ferula tingitana, L., in which the embryo seemed entirely dried up, and only those in two of the pans were previously soaked. The latter sprang up all together in from ten to twenty days, while of those in the other pans, which were left for trial, only a few plants came up in one pan in the spring of the following year, the rest of the seed having all rotted.—(Gard. Mag. for 1841, p. 485.)

Unripe Seeds

Acta Societatis Botanicorum Poloniae 58(3): 327-341 (1989)
Dependence of the legume seeds vigour on their maturity and method of harvest
Stanisław Grzesiuk, Ryszard Górecki
Several methods were used to study 'the vigour and viability of legume seeds (Pisum sativum L. cv. Hamil, Pisum arvense L. cv. Mazurska and Lupinus luteus L. cv. Tomik) harvested at three main stages of seed ripening (green, wax and full). The seeds were tested immediately after harvest (series A) and after two weeks of storage in pods (series B). It was found that: 1) the vigour of ripening legume seeds increases with maturation; 2) post-harvest storage in pods increases the degree of ripeness and, consequently, vigour; 3) seeds attain full vigour later than full viability; 4) seed leachate conductivity method gives erroneous results in assessing the vigour of immature seeds: 5) full vigour of maturing seeds of various degrees of ripeness can be determined by simultaneous application of both biological (eg. seedling growth analysis, VI) and biochemical (e.g. total dehydrogenase activity) methods.

Tukey: Plants grown from immature embryos (1938)
FLEMION (4) found that mature but non-after-ripened seeds of Rhodotypos kerrioides developed into plants with a dwarfish appearance, and with short, stocky hypocotyls and internodes, and small, dark green leaves. She later (5) reported a similar type of growth for non-after-ripened embryos of peach, apple, and hawthorn. DAVIDSON (1), in culturing immature peach embryos, described all plants raised in culture as abnormal and dwarfish, having small, wrinkled, and peculiarly curled leaves. VON VEH (25) found that seedlings of apple, pear, quince, plum, and cherry raised from non-after-ripened embryos developed into dwarf plants. LAMMERTS (13) secured similar results with apricot, peach, cherry, rose, and camellia; and GERSHOY (6) with the violet.

W. B. Hemsley: Germination of Unripe Seeds.—The Garden 13: 262 (March 23, 1878)
It has already been shown that some seeds must be sown almost directly after they are ripe, or they lose their germinative force, whilst others, without any special protection, retain it for years, though it gradually decreases in energy. Seeds that are to be kept, even for a short time, before sowing must be perfectly mature or ripe, but it is not necessary, in many instances, at least, that seeds should be absolutely ripe in order to be able to germinate. Many instances have been put on record by different observers of unripe seeds germinating, and several botanists have conducted extensive series of experiments in raising plants from seeds in different stages of development. At first it seems somewhat surprising that an imperfectly-formed embryo should grow into as vigorous a plant as a mature one; but, when we understand the general plan of growth in plants, this phenomenon is intelligible. Thus, Ferns actually develop from a single detached cell. This property of premature germination may be taken advantage of in practice in propagating plants that do not fully ripen their seeds in our climate. It is recorded that Sophora japonica does not ripen seeds at Breslau, in Germany, but they are so far formed that if taken and sown at once they grow. A rather longer period elapses before unripe seeds actually germinate, but frequently the progeny is equal to the best from mature seed. Indeed, it is stated that the Brazilians always employ unripe seeds to propagate Hancornia speciosa, a valuable fruit tree, believing that the fruit borne by trees raised from immature seeds is of a superior quality. Formerly it was supposed that only exalbuminous seeds, or such in which the embryo fills the greater part of the seed, would germinate when unripe, but M. Sagot, a Frenchman, succeeded in germinating green grain of Wheat in which the albumen was soft, semi-liquid, and milky, and several other experimentalists have raised different cereals from grain collected a fortnight to three weeks before the crops from which it was taken were ripe. The gentleman named also records having raised Peas from seeds weighing one-half, one-fifth, and even one-twelfth of their normal weight. The half-weight seeds germinated rapidly, and produced plants hardly different as seedlings and afterwards from those sprung from fully ripe seeds. Those one-fifth of the normal weight germinated less quickly, and the seedlings were slender, and grew slowly at first; but in course of time they acquired strength, and produced flowers and fruit. Of the seeds sown when only one-twelfth of their normal weight, many did not germinate, and some died after the commencement of their development; and those which survived were very feeble, and grew very slowly. Although the practice of sowing unripe seeds is not likely to become general, and would not be profitable under ordinary circumstances, it might be useful to know, in the case of a rare plant suddenly dying before its seeds were mature, that there was a possibility of their germinating, and thus preventing the loss of, may be, a valuable plant.

Sturtevant: Unripe Seeds (1890)
AT this season of the year it may be desirable to call attention to some past work done at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station, which seems to have been strangely overlooked, important as it may be in furnishing clues and suggestions toward a method of attaining earliness and other changes in our cultivated vegetables. Last summer Professor Arthur, of Purdue University, gave me an oral account of the great success attained in earliness from the use of Tomato seed from the strain originated at Geneva from unripe seed, a strain for which we had many applications from practical growers; and perhaps Professor Goff may be induced to give to the public the results of his continuous work in this field.

Arthur: Unripe Seeds (1890)
THERE seems to be a fair amount of evidence to prove that seeds from immature fruit will give a product requiring less than the usual time to ripen, and that the earliness thus gained can be increased by continuing the selection.

Guppy: Germinating unripe seeds of Iris pseudocorus (1912)
The germinative capacity of so-called unripe seeds does not seem to have been fully appreciated by foresters, gardeners, and horticulturists, the advantages to be derived from dispensing with the rest-period being obvious. As subsequently shown, nature offers us some valuable suggestions in this direction in the case of the Oak.

Michurin: Seeds, their life and preservation until planting (1915)
In the autumn of 1901 about a dozen seeds—not fully ripe and still rather whitish, it should be noted—were taken from three hybrid fruits of a Ussurian pear tree that had been fertilized by pollen taken from a basket specimen of a Beurré Diel pear tree, and were planted in a box in the open air. The other four fruits were kept until January and the seeds taken from them were planted in the same box only in spring. After sprouting, the seedlings were lined out in beds. No sharp difference was noted either as regards the loss of shoots or the development of seedlings from the two plantings, but later when the trees bore fruit the difference did not fail to manifest itself in a somewhat original manner, namely, the trees of the second, spring, planting in which the dried seeds had been used, started fruit hearing in 1910, and also in 1911 and 1912, whereas the trees of the first, i.e., autumn, planting in which fresh, undried seeds had been used began fruit bearing only in 1913, but the quality of the fruits of the trees that grew from the dry seeds was incomparably worse. In the first place, they all proved to be early-summer ripening fruits, unfit to store for winter, and as regards taste they were very viscous, a characteristic of the Ussurian pear, although in size they were four limes as large as the fruits of the maternal tree. Then altogether inexplicable was the fact that all these trees of the second, spring, planting were less hardy to our climate and especially to the scorching of the stem's bark by the sun. In contrast, three trees of the first, autumn, planting, when fresh seeds were used, yielded, firstly, late-ripening fruit capable of keeping in winter storage until the end of December, a great advantage for new varieties in orchards of our localities in Central Russia, and, secondly, the fruits have an excellent flavour and a flesh that is without granulation and melts in one's mouth. Moreover, the trees themselves are noteworthy for complete hardiness to the climate of our locality, and of all our pear-tree varieties they are the only ones the bark of which does not suffer from sun-scorch.

Harshberger: Germinating Immature Acorns (1916)
Guppy suggests in connection with this viviparous habit, that if acorns are taken before they enter the rest period, that is while the pericarp is still green but the embryo is mature, they can be induced to keep up an uninterrupted growth without entering the rest period. This suggestion was tested with a number of acorns of species of oak, viz., Quercus alba, Q. marylandica, Q. prinus. Acorns of these three species were planted in a box filled with sphagnum. The planting was done on September 12, 1912, and the results recorded on October 22, 1912. Two series of acorns were sown. One set had a portion of the shell removed, exposing the embryo. The other set was planted with an uninjured shell covering. There was a slight advantage in the rate of germination of the cut acorns, as contrasted with the uncut. Practically all of the green acorns of the chestnut oak, Quercus prinus, the white oak, Q. alba, and the black-jack oak, Q. marylandica, germinated (Fig. 267).

Bennett: Seed Transmission of Plant Viruses (1969)
Perhaps the best evidence for inactivation of a virus in the seed has been obtained with bean southern mosaic virus in bean. Zaumeyer and Harter (1943) recovered this virus from extracts of bean seeds in the milk and early dough stages and from newly ripened seeds, but failed to recover it from seeds that had been stored 7 months. In more extensive tests, Cheo (1955) found that bean southern mosaic virus infects the young embryo and increases in concentration as the embryo matures. However, virus concentration dropped to a low level or reached zero as the seed dried. Seedlings from immature seeds that germinated on filter paper showed 58 to 80% infection, whereas seedlings obtained from mature seeds usually contained no virus. Extracts from mature or germinated seeds caused greater virus inhibition than extracts from immature seeds, but inhibition was never complete from any of the extracts used.

Long Ashton Research Station, 1977
Prunus necrotic ring spot virus in horse chestnut and hazel.
Seven horse chestnut trees in Avon (six of Aesculus hippocastanum and one of A. carnea) were infected with the apple mosaic strain of prunus necrotic ringspot virus, serologically closely related to apple mosaic isolates from apple and rose, and to the European plum line pattern isolate. The ELISA technique detected apple mosaic in the anthers and unripe seeds of three horse chestnuts but as the seeds ripened they appeared to lose infectivity. Seedlings will be re-tested in the spring as they germinate, but in 1977 no infection was found in 50 seedlings grown from the seed from two infected trees. Despite inoculating seedlings with strains of ...

Toth, et al.: Changes in Germination Capacity of Foeniculum vulgare Mill. Taxa, Breeding Research on Aromatic and Medicinal Plants (2002)
The germination capacity of unripe seeds after harvesting was 21%. The half-ripe seeds germination rate was 37% and the value for the ripe phase was 56%. After a half year storage period, the germination rate increased up to 58, 65 and 78% respectively.

Botanical Abstracts 7(2): 206 (March, 1921)
Kidd, Franklin, And Cyril West. The role of the seed-coat in relation to the germination of immature seed. Ann. Bot. 34: 439-445. 1920.—The germination of unripe mustard seeds and peas from which the seed-coats had been removed was compared with that of intact unripe seeds and with that of ripe seeds. It was found that the removal of the testa accelerated germination, terminated the dormant period and increased the percentage of germination. It is concluded that the presence of the testa is largely responsible for the dormant period when attempts are made to germinate unripe seeds, and evidence is presented to show that the effect is due to the living testa limiting the gaseous exchange of the embryo.

Broschat & Donselman: Effects of Fruit Maturity, Storage, Presoaking, and Seed Cleaning on Germination in Three Species of Palms, J. Environ. Hort. 5(1):6-9. March 1987
This study shows that fruit maturity and seed cleaning can greatly affect palm seed germination. Optimum germination percentage for queen palm seed occurred when cleaned green or half-ripe seed is used. Cleaned ripe or half-ripe seeds germinated best for pygmy date and royal palms. Cleaned palm seed can be stored for 4 to 9 months in sealed polyethylene bags and royal palm seed stored in this manner germinated better than seed planted immediately.

Munson, W. M., (1907) Plant Breeding in its Relation to American Pomology, Maine Agr. Exp. Sta. Bull. pp. 111-112.
As a means of checking too vigorous growth and increasing fruitfulness, the method of using immature seed has been employed with a certain measure of success. It has been found that the use of immature seed increases the productive parts at the expense of the vegetative and thus it comes about that more fruit is formed in proportion to the foliage than is normal.

Botanical Gazette, 34: 153 (1902)
Habitual Polyembryony has been observed by Hegelmaier* in Euphorbia dulcis Jacq. In about two-thirds of the half ripe seeds there is more than one embryo, the number ranging from two to nine. In the ripe seed the number is smaller, usually two or three, and one of these considerably larger than the others. The embryo which develops from the egg is the only one which has a suspensor, and is also the one which becomes the largest embryo in the ripe seed. Of the other embryos, some come from synergids and some from cells of the nucellus. A large per cent, of the polyembryonic seeds are not capable of germinating on account of the disorganization of the embryo.— Charles J. Chamberlain.
*Hegelmaier, F., Ueber einen neuen Fall von habitueller Polyembryonie. Ber. Deutsch. Bot. Gessels. 19: 488-499. 1901.

Jour Roy Microscopical Soc 18: 445 (1898)
Polyembryony in Opuntia.*—Mr. W. F. Ganong describes the process of the formation of numerous embryos in Opuntia vulgaris. The embryos originate within the embryo-sac; in half-ripe seeds there is frequently one springing from the micropylar end, and several from the walls. A careful examination shows that in both cases the embryos arise from the nucellus. When tho pollen-tube reaches the micropylar region of the nucellus, no oosphere can be detected. It probably disappears early in the development of the ovule. Both the micropylar and the parietal embryos result from the budding of cells of tho nucellus near the pollen-tube which are rich in protoplasm. In the course of its development the ovule assumes a campylotropous form, and becomes completely surrounded by the funicle.
*Bot. Gazette, xxv. (1898) pp. 221-8 (1 pl.).

USDA Experiment Station Record 13(7): 658 (1902)
On the germination of half-ripe dodder seed, W. Kinzel (Landw. Vers. Stat., 55 (1901), No. 4-5, pp. 255-256; abs. in Ann. Agron., 27 (1901), No. 8, p. 390).— A study was made of the germination of immature seed of Cuscuta lupuliformus. Capsules containing green seeds were collected, some of which were preserved as collected, while others had the seed removed. In testing the germination of the green seed, it was found that 56 per cent of those which had been removed from the capsules germinated, while 73 per cent of those preserved within the seed balls germinated. Those preserved in the capsules, while germinating more slowly at the beginning, finally gave 92.5 per cent germination. Seeds allowed to ripen normally which were germinated for comparison gave but 5 per cent germination at the end of 26 days.

Experiment Station Record 12: 960 (1901)
The germination of ripe and half-ripe dodder seed,
W. Kinzel (Landw. Vers. Stat., 54 (1900), No. 1-2, pp. 125.132).—Studies are reported upon the germination of seed of various degrees of ripeness of Cuscata epilinum, C. epithymum, C. planiflora, and C. europaea. It was found that the half-ripe seeds of these species retained sufficient vitality to germinate almost as readily as the fully ripe seed. In some cases they germinated quicker than ripe seeds, and when they were found in their capsules the percentage germination was but little inferior to well-ripened seed. The author says that C. planiflora is occasionally found in American clover seed. This seems to be a misstatement, as that species does not appear in any of the recent systematic treatises of the flora of this country. The species is a south European one and its reputed presence is probably due to a wrong determination.

Howard: Germination of Half-Ripe Seeds (1915)
This preliminary test, while very incomplete in that it covers but little ground, is of interest because it shows that seeds of many annual plants are able to germinate when still quite immature, and the percentage that grow average as high as the growth from mature seeds planted at once after ripening.

Burbidge: Germination of Unripe Seeds (1896)
It is apparent that the continued sowing of rath-ripe seeds is conducive to precocity, and also to an enhanced crop of flowers and fruits in proportion to the vegetative area of the plant; in a word, the dynamic force of a plant is altered, so as to facilitate the production of one kind of growth or produce at the expense of another, and the best results will, of course, be gained by a rich feeding when leaf, root or stem crops are sought for, but in the case of flowers and fruits the method of culture must be one of judiciously withholding all surplus nutriment until after the desired results are evident and the initial budding or the actual fruit setting is fully assured, when a more liberal course of treatment may be adopted with safety and advantage.

Brown: Old seeds and unripe seeds (1874)
Treviranus argued stoutly that unripe seeds could not germinate—and certainly the common-sense prejudices of ordinary observers were with him. But this has been shown to be erroneous. Duhamel germinated green seeds of the oak; Senebier, green peas; Seiffert, haricot-beans, lentils, peas, broom, &c., which were not half grown; and the Styphnolobium of Japan, which cannot ripen its seeds in the Breslau Gardens, is nevertheless, according to Göppert, multiplied by incompletely-developed seeds. The only difference is, that these unripe seeds are a little longer in germinating than the ripe ones. Various observations have been made by Göppert, Duchartre, and others, with cereals and cultivated grasses, with a similar result. Again, we are told by Von Martius that the Brazilians always propagate Willughbeia speciosa by unripe seeds, considering that the fruit from plants thus obtained is better than that from trees grown from matured seed. It appears, therefore, that the faculty of germination does not depend upon the seed having attained its maturity, but dates to a period anterior to this. In plants belonging to many natural orders, the seed can germinate when it has advanced but a short way to maturity; but it is necessary that the embryo should have advanced some considerable way, and that the albumen has taken some degree of consistency.

Reychler: Premature germination of Impatiens sultani (1926)
I fertilised the specimens normally. In a greenhouse the seeds take (June-July) twenty-three to twenty-four days to mature. From the seventeenth day, I open the ovaries and sow the seed, still green, on very wet Sphagnum. After one or two days, the green colour changes, the seeds assume the brown tone of ripe seeds, then they germinate and yield plants more puny than the normal type.
    I then take still younger ovaries, some even perhaps too young, and sow all the seeds pell-mell. The germination takes place very slowly and produces very puny specimens. They revive, however, after a time and become perfect plant, among these, there are some the flowers of which seem to have a colour that I believe to be new; but this I cannot, however, vouch for. Several other plants, on the other hand, especially two, produced flowers of a clearly different shape, not opening so well, of a rounder form and with petals showing curly edges (see photo.) Here, also, I observed physiological disturbances, but only with the flower, the plants being vigorous and the leaves normal. I kept these two individuals: they produced, by self-fertilisation, offspring showing the same phenomena. Here, once more, the morphological changes were definitely established in the offspring (fig. 6).

Traub: Reversal of Growth Dominance in Amaryllids (1935)
In a large number of trials, self or cross pollinated flowers of excised amaryllid scapes, especially those of Hippeastrum, placed in water or nutrient solution, have in the great majority of cases produced seeds. Within limits, the number of seeds per capsule seems to be largely a function of the relative size ("fleshiness") of the peduncle. Species in five Genera have been used in the experiments,— Hippeastrum, Crinum, Haemanthus, Zephyranthes and Narcissus. In Zephyranthes the number of seeds produced has been below expectancy, especially in the case of Z. Atamasco and Z. treatieae, which may be due in part to the relatively small size of the peduncle. Z. robusta, with a larger peduncle, produces a relatively larger number of seeds per capsule. Although abundant seeds have been secured from excised scapes of Crinum asiaticum, C. longifolium album and C. longifolium roseum, only an abundant number of fleshy fruits without seeds were produced in the case of C. augustum, a doubtful species which does not set seeds under Florida conditions. A Burbank hybrid Crinum produced many small seeds in each pod which were not viable. Approximately 5 percent of flowers on excised scapes of Haemanthus multiflorus have produced seeds.

Allen: Experiments on Mr. Pell's Farm (1845)
The grain was cut when the straw presented a yellow appearance four inches above the ground. At that stage of its growth, a milky substance could be expressed readily from the kernels, by gentle pressure of the forefinger and thumb. It was allowed to remain three days on the field, when it was carried to the barn and threshed out immediately. It weighed 64 lbs. per bushel, and sold for 12 1/2 cents above the market price by weight. A few acres were left standing, and cut three weeks after, when others in the neighborhood harvested their wheat. This proved small, shrivelled, and weighed 56 lbs. per bushel. The straw had lost its most nutritious substances, was much lighter than that cut earlier, and was consequently less valuable. Mr. Pell thinks that after the stem turns yellow near the ground (there being no connection between the root and the tassel), the kernel wastes daily. By early cutting, nearly all the saccharine matter is preserved in the straw, and it is thus rendered almost as valuable for fodder as hay.

Jackson: Biology of Apples and Pears (2003)
Immature pear seeds of cultivars of P. communis, P. ussuriensis and P. serotina also contain gibberellins. Removal of the seeds 3 weeks after full bloom causes the shed of all fruitlets, but this is largely or completely prevented when gibberellins are applied to the cut surfaces at the time of seed extraction (Yuda et al., 1984).

Arthur: Unripe Seeds (1899)
The author conducted experiments with tomatoes, and although the appearance of fully grown plants did not always show their deficiencies their weights revealed the fact that they had never recovered the ill effects of the unripeness of the seeds when first they germinated. Thus plants raised from the seed gathered from green fruit gave the average weight of a single fruit in grms., l7.5; from half ripe fruit, l7.9; and from fully ripe fruit, 19.4. These were calculated from 1,044, 439, and 1,889 ripe fruits respectively. From comparative results of growths, "without going into further details, the general principle may be stated, that plants from green seed will, as a rule, attain a smaller development in both vegetative and reproductive parts than those from ripe seed." But "the use of immature seed increases the reproductive parts at the expense of the vegetative, and thus it comes about that there is more fruit formed in proportion to the amount of foliage than normally."

Johnson: Old, Unripe, Dwarfed Seed (1868)
According to Siegert, the sowing of unripe peas tends to produce earlier varieties. Liebig says: "The gardener is aware that the flat and shining seeds in the pod of the Stock Gillyflower will give tall plants with single flowers, while the shriveled seeds will furnish low plants with double flowers throughout."

Annual Report, Mass. State Board of Agriculture (1885)
But we have a better clew for a method of securing early crops than the one which is suggested by the experiments. If you will take common green pease, which you are ready to gather for your table, and plant them, those pease will grow, and those plants will probably give you, on the average, earlier pease than will the ripe seed from those same plants. If you will take the seed of a green tomato,—a tomato half grown,—and take the seed of a tomato which has ripened upon the same plant, you may find, as we have this year, a difference of fifteen or more days in earliness between the plants grown from the green seed and those grown from the ripe seed. If you will take the green seed of beets,—the unripe seed,—and plant those, you will find, perhaps, a gain of from six to eight days of earliness between the product of the unripe seed and the ripe seed. If you will take thoroughbred corn, of a known constant character, and take a boiling ear of this corn, or one a little too green for the table, and plant the seeds, some will grow; and those seeds, for two years running, have given us earlier corn than the same seed picked ripe. We have gone through a dozen different vegetables and the experiments all tend one way. They show that by using unripe seed we can get increased earliness in our plants.
    But you must remember that these green seeds will give you feebler plants. If the idea is a true one that you can attain earliness in this way, it may be necessary to use ripe seed from the plants grown from the unripe seed, in order to get back again the vigor of the plant, which is of very great importance in our horticulture. There is simply one idea thrown out on this point in regard to earliness.

Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, 108(4): 232 (1885)
Tests of Ripe and Green Seed (Peas)
In 1883 we gathered samples of unripe seed from three varieties of pea, the selections varying somewhat in the degree of unripeness. On April 28, these were planted in the garden with the following results:

Ripe and Green Seed Germ. % germ. 1st bloom 1st ed. mat. Days for
1st ripe Last ripe

on 100 plants

in 100 pods
yield per plant
Blue Peter
Ripe 11 84 40 57 13 68 79 629 391 121
Green 11 84 40 57 13 68 79 467 410 100
Ripe 11 60 40 64 9 77 106 706 317 109
Green 11 55 40 66 6 72 105 677 385 92
William the First
Ripe 11 54 39 57 13 65 98 300 459 65
Past ed. mat. 12 9 42 57 16 65 102 1467 573 346
At ed. mat. 12 3 38 58 15 84 109 1600 728 492

With the exception of the third sample of William the First, the green seeds were only slightly immature. It is evident that the results are contradictory. The sample of William the First, gathered at edible maturity, however, with a very feeble vegetation, gives a surprisingly large yield. It appears that the time of maturity was little influencd. The experiment has value only in being suggestive. If extreme greenness of the seed tends to increase productiveness, a knowledge of the fact is valuable. The evidence suggests further experiment.

Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, 108(4): 351 (1885)
Two samples of Niagara cane, one raised from ripe seed, and the other from unripe seed, were tested October 14. The samples from unripe seed were a little more advanced than that from the ripe seed, and the results obtained show it to be a little richer in cane sugar, the total sugar being practically the same in both cases.

1884 Average
of cane
Average weight
of stripped cane, grams
Per cent
of juice
Sp. gr.
of juice
Per cent of
cane sugar by polariscope
Per cent
of glucose

Ripe 7 316 39.2 1.076 11.96 2.22 14.18
Unripe 7 3/4 347 41.1 1.076 11.10 3.10 14.20

Michigan State Horticultural Society 14: 306-307 (1884)
Green and Unripe Seeds
Dr. Sturtevant has made trials at the experiment station, which, if giving similar results generally, will be regarded as important. The unripe seed of a variety of the tomato ripened their fruit on the first of August, while plants from ripe seed did not ripen their fruit till the middle of August. Seeds of the Winnigstadt cabbage, gathered before ripe, furnished plants at edible maturity ou the 29th of July, but not until August 3 to 6 with ripe seed. The green seed gave heads six and a half inches in diameter, while ripe seeds did not furnish heads quite five inches. No difference occurred with green and ripe lettuce seed. There was a difference of five days in favor of green radish seed, with some varieties, and none with others. These experiments must of course be repeated to ascertain if accidental causes may not have operated.

Downing: The Van Mons Theory (1849)
It will be remembered that it is a leading feature in this theory that, in order to improve the fruit, we must subdue or enfeeble the original coarse luxuriance of the tree. Keeping this in mind, Dr. Van Mons always gathers his fruit before fully ripe, and allows them to rot before planting the seeds, in order to refine or render less wild and harsh the next generation. In transplanting the young seedlings into quarters to bear, he cuts off the tap root, and he annually shortens the leading and side branches, besides planting them only a few feet apart. All this lessens the vigor of the trees, and produces an impression upon the nature of the seeds which will be produced by their first fruit; and, in order to continue in full force the progressive variation, he allows his seedlings to bear on their own roots.

Van Mons' Theory of Breeding

Tayler: Germination of the Morning Glory (1906)

... plants grown in a green-house from immature green seeds blossomed earlier, had shorter stems and produced fewer seed-pods by about one-half than did those raised under the same conditions from seeds having no chlorophyll in the embryo. When the plants so grown from immature green seeds had ceased to blossom, those raised from mature colorless seeds were thrifty and still forming buds and maturing flowers and fruit. Both kinds of seeds were planted at the same time.

New York Agricultural Experiment Station 5: 341 (1908)
"A small percentage of the seeds taken from a tomato not fully developed in size and which had not commenced to change color toward maturity vegetated and developed into plants." These plants ripened their fruit earlier than the plants from mature seed. The percentage of germinations from the green seed was considerably lower and the plants themselves less vigorous than those from well ripened seed. Where green seeds were again taken from those plants which had come from green seed the vigor was still more reduced, the weakening effect being apparently cumulative, increasing with each generation until the plants had not sufficient vigor to make a good growth or resist any of the various diseases to which tomatoes are subject.

Goff: Tomatoes from immature seeds (1892)
The results suggest that in our climate, the tomato, at least its more rampant growing varieties, maybe rendered more productive and earlier in maturing by a treatment that reduces the native vigor of the plant.

Goff: Principles of Plant Culture (1897)
164. Immature versus Ripe Seeds. Seeds not fully grown lack a part of their normal food supply, and their embryo is probably imperfectly developed. If capable of germination, they rarely, if ever, produce vigorous plants. As a rule, the most vigorous plants come from fully matured seeds. Immature seeds, persistently used, probably tend to reduced vigor, early maturity, dwarfness and shortened life. In some over-vigorous plants, as the tomato, slightly immature seed may tend to increased fruitfulness.
    Slightly immature seeds usually germinate sooner than fully matured ones.

Arthur: Unripe seeds (1895)
While the use of immature seed brings about greater activity in reproduction, and a tendency to early maturity, the same is also true of plants from very old seed, as has been recognized for a very long time. It is probably best known in reference to melons, which are generally believed to give more and better fruit when the seeds are five to twenty years old, although the plants will be weak. Observations have not, however, been confined to melons, but are recorded for pears, beans, lentils, etc.

Minn. Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin No. 90 (January, 1905)
Snyder: Heavy and Light Weight Seeds
While there is a somewhat larger percentage of nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash in light weight seeds, it is found that when the weight per 100 kernels is multiplied by the percentage composition, 100 heavy weight seeds contain from two to four times as much nitrogen, phosphoric acid and potash as the light weight seeds. Thus while the light weight immature seeds have somewhat the advantage in percentage composition the heavy weight seeds have decidedly the advantage because of their greater weight, and contain a much larger total although a smaller percentage amount of the nutrients than the light weight seeds.

Bailey: Plant-Breeding (1895)
Another important consideration touching the selection of seeds is the fact that very immature seeds give a feeble but precocious progeny. This has long been observed by gardeners, but Sturtevant, Arthur, and Goff have recently made a critical examination of the subject. "It is not the slightly unripe seeds that give a noticeable increase in earliness," according to Arthur, "but very unripe seeds, gathered from fruit [tomatoes] scarcely of full size and still very green. Such seeds do not weigh more than two-thirds as much as those fully ripe. They germinate readily, but the plantlets lack constitutional vigor and are more easily affected by retarding or harmful influences. If they can be brought through the early period of growth and become well established, and the foliage or fruit is not attacked by rots or blights, the grower will usually be rewarded by an earlier and more abundant crop of slightly smaller and less firm fruit. These characters will be more strongly emphasized in subsequent years by continuous seed propagation." Goff remarks that the increase in earliness in tomatoes, following the use of markedly immature seeds, "is accompanied by a marked decrease in the vigor of the plant, and in the size, firmness, and keeping quality of the fruit." These results are probably closely associated with the chemical constitution and content of the immature seeds.

American Botanist 14(1): 19 (February, 1908))
Effect Of Immature Seeds.—The majority of seeds will not grow as soon as ripe, but demand or require a season of rest before continuing growth. Some, however, not only grow as soon as as the containing fruit is ripe but even before this. The tomato plant is one whose seeds behave in this mariner. In general plants grown from such immature seeds fruit earlier than others of the same species, but the fruit is likely to be small. If the practice of growers is to be a criterion, even the size of the seeds may indicate something of the vigor of the crop they will produce. Cabbage growers always reject the large seeds, holding that such seeds give rise to plants that produce leaves rather than heads. The same belief causes them to prefer old cabbage seeds to fresh ones and they commonly use seed that is two or three years old. Growers of squashes, cucumbers and melons insist that the older such seeds are, the better, so long as they will grow, since old seeds produce more fruit of greater fleshiness.

Troop: Melon Culture (1911)
As a rule, the most vigorous plants come from fully matured seeds. Immature seeds, persistently used, probably tend to reduced vigor, early maturity, dwarfness, and shortened life. And Bailey remarks that these results are probably closely associated with the chemical constitution and content of the immature seeds. The organic compounds have not yet reached a state of stability, and they therefore respond quickly to external stimuli when placed in conditions suitable to germination, and there is little food for the nourishment of the plantlet. The consequent weakness of the plantlet results in a loss of vegetable vigor, which is earliness. In other words, if the melon grower wishes to increase the earliness of his crop, he can do so by persistently gathering his seeds from immature fruits, but he will invariably secure earliness at the expense of vigor of plant, and without a vigorous plant the crop of fruit will inevitably be shortened. More than that, a plant that is weak in vitality cannot produce a fruit of the highest quality. It is a recognized fact, therefore, that seeds like the melon and cucumber will produce the greatest yield of the highest quality fruit from well-ripened seeds which are two or three years old.

N. C. Dept. of Agric. Bull. (1907)
(Mathewson) It is important, also, not to sow any very immature or undeveloped [tobacco] seeds. They will give a weak plant, that will tend to blossom out prematurely before the plant has set a sufficient number of leaves to give a satisfactory yield. By the simple expedient of picking off and discarding all undeveloped seed-pods at the time when the seed-heads are harvested the danger from immature seeds will be obviated. It ought always to be done.

Wisconsin Farmer 16(4): 156 (April 1, 1864)
(Plumb) Early maturing, so much desired by gardeners, is intimately connected with the vitality of the seed. While it is necessary to have well ripened, plump seeds for long keeping and the most vigorous growth, yet for early forcing and quick maturity, the immature or partially shrunken or aged seed may be more valuable.
    The principle involved is, that aged or immature seeds, wanting in vitality, though they require a greater heat and more even temperature to grow, will sooner expend their vitality, and, therefore, the sooner mature. Hence the remark of an old farmer that "two or three years old seed corn will ripen two weeks earlier than fresh, yearling seeds.''
    Upon this principle, in connection with the well known plan of selecting the earliest ripening fruits of the season, and from specimens grown on warm, quick soils, great advancement can be made in the direction of early ripening grains and vegetables, as well as fruits and flowers, and is well worth the most persevering experiments in detail.

Shamel: Public Documents, State of Connecticut 4: 334-335 (1905)
The small, light, and particularly the immature seeds tend to produce irregular, so-called "freak plants," which, in some cases, at least, are more subject to the attack of fungous and other diseases than normal healthy plants. In view of the fact that the light seeds sprout earlier than the heavy seeds, it is probable that many of the plants grown from such seed are set out in the field by the growers and are responsible for a part, at least, of the undesirable plants in the field. The mosaic or calico disease, which, according to the best evidence obtainable, is due to faulty nutrition, affects plants raised from light and immature seed more extensively than plants raised from heavy seed. In Connecticut in the past season, certain crops raised from heavy seed were almost free from calico, while adjoining crops raised from the same variety of seed but not separated, and under very similar conditions of culture, contained from 15 to 40 per cent. of calico plants. The same facts have been reported from other tobacco-growing regions. For instance, in the tobacco-breeding experiments conducted by the Bureau of Plant Industry in cooperation with the Maryland Experiment Station in Maryland, a portion of a certain sample of seed was separated and the heavy seed retained for planting, while the other portion of the seed was not separated. The plants raised from the heavy seed were almost wholly free from calico, while adjoining rows of plants raised from the unseparated seed contained as high as 60 per cent. of calico plants. It is reasonable to suppose that the thrifty and vigorous plants raised from the heavy seed more easily resist or throw off the attacks of certain diseases or, at least, recover more quickly from the effects of injuries caused by diseases or unfavorable conditions, than the slower growing and weaker plants raised from the light seed.

Hemsley: The Garden 13: 262 (March 23, 1878)
Germination Of Unripe Seeds.—It has already been shown that some seeds must be sown almost directly after they are ripe, or they lose their germinative force, whilst others, without any special protection, retain it for years, though it gradually decreases in energy. Seeds that are to be kept, even for a short time, before sowing must be perfectly mature or ripe, but it is not necessary, in many instances, at least, that seeds should be absolutely ripe in order to be able to germinate. Many instances have been put on record by different observers of unripe seeds germinating, and several botanists have conducted extensive series of experiments in raising plants from seeds in different stages of development. At first it seems somewhat surprising that an imperfectly-formed embryo should grow into as vigorous a plant as a mature one; but, when we understand the general plan of growth in plants, this phenomenon is intelligible. Thus, Ferns actually develop from a single detached cell. This property of premature germination may be taken advantage of in practice in propagating plants that do not fully ripen their seeds in our climate. It is recorded that Sophora japonica does not ripen seeds at Breslau, in Germany, but they are so far formed that if taken and sown at once they grow. A rather longer period elapses before unripe seeds actually germinate, but frequently the progeny is equal to the best from mature seed. Indeed, it is stated that the Brazilians always employ unripe seeds to propagate Hancornia speciosa, a valuable fruit tree, believing that the fruit borne by trees raised from immature seeds is of a superior quality. Formerly it was supposed that only exalbuminous seeds, or such in which the embryo fills the greater part of the seed, would germinate when unripe, but M. Sagot, a Frenchman, succeeded in germinating green grain of Wheat in which the albumen was soft, semi-liquid, and milky, and several other experimentalists have raised different cereals from grain collected a fortnight to three weeks before the crops from which it was taken were ripe. The gentleman named also records having raised Peas from seeds weighing one-half, one-fifth, and even one-twelfth of their normal weight. The half-weight seeds germinated rapidly, and produced plants hardly different as seedlings and afterwards from those sprung from fully ripe seeds. Those one-fifth of the normal weight germinated less quickly, and the seedlings were slender, and grew slowly at first; but in course of time they acquired strength, and produced flowers and fruit. Of the seeds sown when only one-twelfth of their normal weight, many did not germinate, and some died after the commencement of their development; and those which survived were very feeble, and grew very slowly. Although the practice of sowing unripe seeds is not likely to become general, and would not be profitable under ordinary circumstances, it might be useful to know, in the case of a rare plant suddenly dying before its seeds were mature, that there was a possibility of their germiuating, and thus preventing the loss of, may be, a valuable plant.

Tourney: Seeding and Planting (1916)
In the spring of 1904, the author gathered 100 fruits of the silver maple 7 days before maturity and planted them at once. A week later an equal number of the mature fruits was gathered from the the same tree and planted. On the eighth day after planting 79 per cent of the immature seeds germinated, while 92 per cent of the mature seeds germinated on the sixth day after planting. The seedlings from the mature seeds were more robust and made more rapid growth. Two weeks after the mature seeds germinated the seedlings averaged more than twice as large as those from the immature ones.

Jamaica Dept. of Agric. Bulletin 5(10, 11): (October & November, 1907)
Olsson-Seffer: Rubber Planting in Mexico and Central America
If seeds are taken from fruits which are not matured and do not have the clear colour of the flesh they will most likely either fail to germinate, or produce inferior seedlings. Experience has shown in regard to most cultivated plants that the maturity of the seed has a considerable influence on the offspring. Immature seeds lessen the vitality of the subsequent seedlings and trees.
    I have noticed that seeds from young plants are fuller and more rounded than those from older trees. The seedling from such a seed has smoother and bigger leaves than those developing from seeds with a loose seed coats and ribs on their surface.
    The root development is much stronger in a seedling from seed taken from a younger tree, and this is another reason why careful attention should be paid to the age of the parent tree.

Farmer's Companion 3(6) (June, 1854)
Ducharte: Practical Experiments upon the Germination of Grain
It may be feared by some, that the plants grown from unripe seed will be so feeble that whatever may be gained in numbers at first will afterwards be lost. But the results of Messrs. Kurr and Goeppert's experiments on Rye appear to dispel any such idea. My own experiments are quite as satisfactory. In the first place, the plants grown from the unripe seed dried, were all remarkable for their vigor and luxuriance. In the second place, if the offspring of the seeds sown unripe and green, were at first visibly weak, they rapidly gained strength, and then their growth was very beautiful. On the 15th of October, the stalks of rye from seeds sown on the 10th July presented an average of 15 heads, already issued from the sheath, some past blossom, some still in blossom, and others still in the sheath, ready to burst forth. The heads were of remarkable beauty. The results were the same with the seed sown yet later. There was no difference perceptible between the plants grown from seeds in different stages of approach to maturity or ripened; or if any, it was in favor of the plants from the most unripe seed, as in the case of the red wheat. The growth of the barley was absolutely luxuriant. * * *

Nerson & Paris: Effects of fruit age, fermentation and storage on germination of cucurbit seeds (1988)
The effects of fruit age, fermentation and storage on germinability and leakage from seeds of one cultivar of each of four cucurbit crops, cucumber (Cucumis sativus L. cultivar ‘Bet Alfa’), melon (Cucumis melo L. ‘Noy Yizre'el’), watermelon (Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai ‘Sugar Baby’) and squash (Cucurbita pepo L. ‘Vegetable Spaghetti’) were studied under controlled conditions. Generally, germinability was best from fruits which were 49–54 days past anthesis (dpa), the most mature fruits studied. Fermentation of seeds from immature and mature fruits of the cucumber, melon and watermelon was either beneficial, or at least not harmful. However, fermentation of seeds from immature (28 dpa) fruits of the squash cultivar resulted in no germination. Storage for up to 48 months generally did not affect seeds from the most mature fruits. Storage adversely affected germination of seeds from immature (26–28 dpa) fruits of the cucumber, melon and squash, but favorably affected germination of seeds from immature (26 dpa) fruits of the watermelon. Excessive seed leakage and a relatively low ratio of embryo weight to seed coat weight were associated with poor germination.

Desai: Fermentation of cucumber, melon, watermelon and squash seeds (2004)
The pulp is poured into wooden barrels and allowed to ferment for several days. The fermenting material should be stirred occasionally to prevent discoloration or blackening of seed from that may form on the material floating at the surface. The separated seed sinks to the bottom. at 15.5-21.1°C, the fermentation process takes 3-6 days to complete. Very slow fermentation rates may reduce seed viability. Fruits of four cucurbit crops (cucumber, melon, watermelon, and squash) were harvested 25, 35, and 45 days past anthesis (dpa) and their seeds were extracted immediately or extracted after 10-20 days of preextraction storage (pes). Upon extraction, the seeds were subjected or not subjected to fermentation, washing, and drying. Cucumber, melon, and watermelon reached full germinability by 35 dpa, but squash required a longer period. Fermentation and drying were important for improving the germinability of immature seeds of cucumber, melon, and watermelon. Fermentation had a deleterious effect on immature seeds, but drying and washing improved germinability of squash seeds.

Annual Report of the American Institute of the City of New York (1867)
Ripe vs. Immature Seed. Mr. Owen [Mr. John Owen, Fairmount, Mo.], alluded to above, writes also, "in relation to melons, squashes, pumpkins, in order to improve the species, and increase their flavor and size, I take the seed from the stem end. I select while growing, such as I want for seed, and let them remain on the vine till they rot. Then take the rotten mass and lay it upon a shelf to dry. It is a fact that water-melons will never get any riper than the melon was from which the seed that produced them was taken. If you plant the seeds from an immature melon or pumpkin, the product will be the same. But by continuing to select the seed from the stem end of ripe melons, as directed, the green flavor of the melon, squash and pumpkin may be avoided, and their size much enlarged. Though the results spoken of may not be attained in a single season, by continuing this practice of selecting seeds from year to year, we never fail, as I have demonstrated by practical experience, to improve the quality of such vegetables."

(Cyberose note: potatoes are grown from tubers rather than seed, but the following items are interesting nonetheless as they deal with the influence of tuber maturity on the resulting crop.)

Knight: On the Prevention of the Disease called the Curl in the Potatoe (1813)
I have stated, in the Horticultural Transactions of 1811, that I obtained a second crop of Potatoes by planting those of an early variety in the same soil from which a crop of the same variety had been taken, in the month of July; and that I had employed, with success, the tops of those taken up, with green fern and nettles, as manure. But I found the tubers produced by those last planted to be much more soft and watery, when boiled, than others of the same variety, and consequently much inferior in value for every culinary purpose; and therefore, these were kept for the purpose of planting in the last spring. I inferred, consistently with the hypothesis I adduced in the Horticultural Transactions of 1811, that the organizable matter these contained, being in a less firm and concrete state, would prove more disposable, and that I might therefore expect, in the succeeding season, plants of stronger growth, and more smooth and perfect foliage. The result, in every respect, coincided with my expectations; the plants presented the appearance of a different variety, and afforded a more abundant crop and larger tubers than I had ever obtained from the same variety.

Annual Report / New Jersey. Agricultural Experiment Station, 42: 456 (1922)
Studies of the relation of maturity to vigor in seed potatoes
William H. Martin
Macoun (2) planted potatoes at 14-day intervals starting May 22, the last planting being made July 3. The tubers from the various lots were planted on the same date the following year. In most every instance there was an increase in yield from the earliest to the latest plantings, indicating that the most immature seed could be expected to give the largest yield. In another test he harvested seed immature from an early planted crop. The following year this immature seed gave pronounced increases in yield when compared with mature seed of the same variety.

(2) Macoun, W. T., 1918. The potato in Canada. Canada Dept. Agr. Dom. Exp. Farms. Bul. 90

Lysenko: Improving Potatoes by Culture (Trans. 1954)
The practical solution of the problem of combating the degeneration of potatoes in the South and the generalization of the mass experience of the collective farms have led to new discoveries, have increased our knowledge of plant life. It has been ascertained that the summer planting of potatoes, as a result of which the new tubers form under the cooler autumn conditions, not only keeps the tubers from degenerating, but alters the breed of the potato, not in the direction of degeneration, but in the direction of acquiring greater vigour. This has already been tested and proved for three years on large areas under collective-farm conditions. At our Institute we have had the same results for five years with the medium-ripening variety Ella, which A. F. Kotov, a specialist at our Institute, had taken for experimentation.
    For four years, year after year, one variant of this potato was planted in the spring and another variant was planted year after year at the end of June and beginning of July. As a result, what seemed to be two distinctly different varieties were obtained. The first was a breed of potato that was good for nothing; the second was a variety that produced a good crop of large tubers. There can be no doubt that an alteration in the breed (genotype) took place here, for how otherwise is it possible to explain the different behaviour of the plants of these two variants when planted in the spring of 1937 under equal conditions? They produced different yields and tubers of different sizes and shapes; and the plants of these two variants bore stems and leaves of different appearance and vigour.

Queensland Agricultural Journal 15: 461-462 (1 July 1904)
A considerable amount of correspondence has been published in various newspapers in the United Kingdom on the subject of the advantage or disadvantage of using unripe potatoes for seed. One writer says that a farmer at Dalmeny was in the habit of growing two crops of potatoes on the same ground in one season. The second crop was planted in July after the first crop had been raised and put to market: the second crop was raised in the autumn and boxed for seed for the following spring. Some of the early varieties, it' left in the ground till ripe, would be all gone with disease, and it is a common thing to raise them before they are ripe. A Mr. Wallace said that, through digging the Early Puritans in a green and unripe state, the variety has retained its vigour and has shown no signs of nagging for sixteen years. Ninetyfold has, he said, done the same, and both are most delicate potatoes. The only reason for and the whole secret of this result, is digging them while green. In discussing this point another writer asks: Does this what may be called ensilage system apply only to two varieties, or is it applicable to all? If to all, why then is it not generally adopted? Further, if digging potatoes while green is possessed of so many distinct and compensating virtues, why are not all potato crops secured while the days are long, and weather fine, and disease not yet generated? Again, apart from this, how do the unripe tubers stand the test of quality and flavour from the consumer's point of view? People usually like a dry, mealy, full-flavoured potato instead of a waxy or soppy one.
    A third writer is quite convinced of the strong growth of unripe seed potatoes. He had practical experience of the matter. He bought seed which had been dug in a very unripe state. The skins were torn and much ruffled, and the potatoes had been exposed to the weather, and were consequently green, yet he grew a splendid crop from them.
    Scotch potatoes are seldom ripe. It is very rare that a late potato crop in Scotland is seen to yellow down in natural ripeness. More often they are standing fresh, green, and even in bloom on 1st October, and a fortnight later the crop is stored. To this immature state of the tuber is attributed the splendid virility of Scotch tubers as seed. The whole matter seems to us to be still an open question. The exponents on either side prove the case to their own satisfaction, but no actual decision has been arrived at It would require a dozen years of careful experiment to settle the matter. So far it is like a man being asked if he would take black tea or green, and he said he would.

Vermont Family Visitor 1(5): 158 (October, 1845)
From the other side of the Atlantic, where the rot has longer prevailed, we have a series of trials for five years, which are given in a letter by H. I. Thompson, published in the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society in England, the conclusion is deduced that the planting of unripe seed will prevent both the curl and dry rot in potatoes. We copy the minutes of these experiments:

Year Seed taken up Quality of Crop Quality of Crop
1840 Ripe (supposed) Curled Failing crop
1841 Unripe No curl Good crop
1842 Unripe No curl Good crop
1843 Ripe Curled Indifferent crop
1844 Unripe No curl Good crop
1841 Ripe (supposed) Curled Failing crop
1842 Ripe Curled Light crop
1843 Unripe No curl Capital crop
1844 Ripe Much curled Very bad crop

It is to be remarked that 1843 was remarkable for wet, 1844 for drouth, and 1841 and 1842 were average seasons—yet in all the crop from unripe seed was good, and that from ripe seed was bad. In addition to this, Mr. T. instances two gardeners, whose experience for a series of years tallies with the above experiments to a remarkable degree.

See also, Physiological Predetermination , Seed Pretreatments