Dry Saved Seeds in Paper Envelopes: Plastic kills seeds!

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Dry Saved Seeds in Paper Envelopes

By RickCorey
November 22, 2013

Save paper envelopes from bills and junk mail and dry your saved seeds and seed heads in envelopes instead of on paper plates. They take up less room and are less likely to spill.

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Kentucky 😔 (Zone 6a)
Region: Kentucky Tropicals Plant and/or Seed Trader Moon Gardener Cactus and Succulents Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Swayback
Nov 23, 2013 3:39 PM CST
Emerging science suggests that long term storage of seeds in plastic containers can reduce the shelf life of seeds.
In some cases, dramatically!
I always use paper or glass.

Envelopes should work just great!
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Name: Ginger
Fountain, Florida (Zone 8b)
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gingin
Nov 23, 2013 3:47 PM CST
So empty pill bottles would not be a good idea long term?? what about short term??
Each cloud has a silver lineing if only you look for it.
Kentucky 😔 (Zone 6a)
Region: Kentucky Tropicals Plant and/or Seed Trader Moon Gardener Cactus and Succulents Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Swayback
Nov 24, 2013 8:48 PM CST
gingin said:So empty pill bottles would not be a good idea long term?? what about short term??


I stopped using them...
That's not to say there's not dozens in use at my place now, but only for seeds I plan to plant next season, and if rather use glass or paper.
I can't personally attest to plastic being detrimental to seeds, but I've read a fair amount of people's options that seem very sure it does.
Please tree mail me for trades, I'm ALWAYS actively looking for more new plants, and love to trade!
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Nov 24, 2013 8:57 PM CST
so are we supposed to use airtight glass or something with holes in the lid for air circulation? Of course assuming the seeds are dried well before storing.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Nov 25, 2013 12:18 PM CST
>> Emerging science suggests that long term storage of seeds in plastic containers can reduce the shelf life of seeds.

I would love to find out more about why plastic would affect seed viability after long-term storage. I'd appreciate anything you recall about the sources or their reasons, so I can follow up. Volatile plasticizers?

Right now I store seed in 2x3 Ziplocs bundled inside other Ziplocs and glassine envelopes, inside plastic tubs (usually with some desiccant). I open the tubs very often.

Thumb of 2013-11-25/RickCorey/8d536a Thumb of 2013-11-25/RickCorey/f9a9b2

The only downside of plastic storage that I know about is that plastic can trap humidity inside, if the seeds were not dry enough to start with. And even dormant seeds metabolize slowly, so they produce tiny amounts of humidity over several years.

Or, even dormant seeds use a tiny amount of oxygen. Perhaps any very tightly sealed container that has very little air trapped inside might run out of oxygen over many years, and then the seeds would suffocate and die. But that seems unlikely in most situations since seed banks seal seeds totally hermetically in Mylar pouches or glass vials.

One thing about Ziplocs as opposed to freezer-bags or Seal-A-Meal bags that are melted shut, is that Ziplocs are pretty leaky. The "zipper" is pretty loose, and both humidity and oxygen can diffuse slowly right THROUGH most kinds of thin plastic.
(* Footnote 1)

You can prove to your self how leaky Ziploc zippers are. Seal 3-4 small Ziplocs, trapping some air inside each one. Stack them up on a desk or table and press your palm against the stack of "bubbles". A little firm pressure will squeeze air out right through the closed zippers. That means there are gaps that gasses can diffuse through.

The main factors that I know of for keeping seeds viable for more years than usual are:
- dry humidity (prefer 15-30% RH)
- cool temperature (4 degrees C = 40 F) (or a cryogenic freezer)
- dark (this is a lesser factor)

(Also, they seem to prefer unvarying conditions over swings of temperature and humidity.) (* Footnote 2)

==

(* Footnote 1)
https://secure.drierite.com/catalog3/page17b.cfm?p=20&img_sc...
"While the plastic film will hold liquid water, water vapor may pass through it. For instance, 1-mil polyethylene will pass water vapor at the rate of 1.5 grams/sq. ft./ 24 hrs, while 4-mil polyethylene will only pass about 0.05 grams/sq. ft./24 hrs at 75° F and 100% RH. "


(* Footnote 2)

Post-harvest handling of seed collections
http://www.kew.org/sites/default/files/4_ppcont_014345_Post-...


Some more links:

Kew Millennium Seed Bank Project, long-term seed storage containers:
http://www.kew.org/ucm/groups/public/documents/document/ppco...

Kew: theory of desiccants and RH
http://www.kew.org/ucm/groups/public/documents/document/ppco...

Many Kew Royal Botanic Gardens Technical Information Sheets about collecting and storing seeds, written by Millennium Seed Bank staff.
http://www.kew.org/science-research-data/kew-in-depth/msbp/p...


"Giving Seeds What They Need In Storage": http://www.hillgardens.com/storeseeds.htm
http://permaculture.org.au/2012/07/07/share-the-love-seed-sa...
http://www.cog.ca/documents/SeedsofDiversitySU06.pdf
http://www.seedsave.org/issi/904/beginner.html



[Last edited by RickCorey - Mar 31, 2015 12:02 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #517336 (5)
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 29, 2014 4:31 PM CST
Now I lean more toward the idea that retaining ANY moisture probably IS a Somewhat Bad Thing unless you seal the Ziplocs and some desiccant inside a larger container that keeps out household humidity.

However, I'll never change over to paper because of the other advantages of Ziplocs. I'm just going to be more careful about drying all the way (with desiccant) before zipping them closed, and storing with desiccant (inside a larger jar with a good seal).

- easy to see how many seeds are left and inspect for insects
- easy to open and close many times (scoop, pour, divide and consolidate)
- easy to read a small-print label inside the Ziploc
- re-usable
- cheaper than paper

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