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Organic vs. "Conventional" Seeds

 
Posts: 64
Location: Currently located in central OK. Farmstead location is in northern VT.
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SO my question here is -

If one were to buy 'conventional' seeds and grow them organically (no synthetic inputs), how long would it take for those plants to become 'organic'? How many generations of growth before the traces of synthetic fertilizers and whatnot are removed from the plants composition?

What are the potential ramifications of non-organic seeds grown organically without intent to harvest? Should one still consider the 'conventional' seeds for soil building and tillage or would it make it impossible to grow anything organically by leaching said chemical fertilizers and pesticides into the soil? If so, how long before the soil has cleansed itself? If ever.

I am looking at a seed company that specializes in native grasses and wildflowers but they are not grown organically and it got me wondering.
 
steward
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Patrick Edwards wrote:SO my question here is -

If one were to buy 'conventional' seeds and grow them organically (no synthetic inputs), how long would it take for those plants to become 'organic'?



I think there’s many facets to this first question. May I ask you: Are you doing this in order to sell seed as organic? Are you attempting to adhere to organic guidelines? If this is the case, then I believe reviewing the NOP (National Organic Program) rules will give you the answer you seek. I don't know what it is. If you’re doing this just for your own use, I believe that one generation of growing using organic or better standards will be sufficient. It’s what I do if I can’t find an organic seed.

How many generations of growth before the traces of synthetic fertilizers and whatnot are removed from the plants composition?



See reply to the next question.

Should one still consider the 'conventional' seeds for soil building and tillage or would it make it impossible to grow anything organically by leaching said chemical fertilizers and pesticides into the soil?



If a seed is analyzed using a fancy mass spectrometer in a lab, I’m pretty sure the machine won’t reveal if a phosphorous atom, for example, came from a petroleum fertilizer or bat guano, or if a nitrogen atom came from synthetic urea or chicken manure. Some here may be able to shed more light on this, but these atoms were made in ancient stars and don’t vary much from one to the next*. Synthetic fertilizers used to grow one generation are not going to carry over to future generations through seed.

So some of those “whatnots” can be systemic, meaning they are taken up by the root system of a plant and whatever compound it is gets into the vascular system of a plant and can get into plant tissue and its fruiting bodies. I think it’s also possible that there may be a trace amount of a systemic ending up within a seed, but that’s just my guessing. Any seed that is germinated in soil will then rely upon soil bacteria & fungi and the minerals found in the soil to grow. A conventional seed planted in a soil is not going to contaminate that soil.

... how long before the soil has cleansed itself? If ever.



It depends. The soil type, the type of contamination, and the amount of contamination are all variables that prevent there being a one size fits all answer. Soils can be remediated using fungi and plants. Mycoremediation is the use of fungi, and fungi have the ability to cleave long chain man-made chemical compounds into lesser innocuous compounds and even individual atoms. Phytoremediation is the use of plants to pull contaminate from a soil. Certain plants are better than others, and can pull toxins from a soil, and even degrade or stabilize some compounds, but sometimes the toxins can accumulate in the plant tissue itself. Again, it depends on the contamination and application. But, yes, soils can be cleansed.

*Atomic isotopes exist, and these are the same chemical element with the same atomic number but different atomic mass and different physical properties. (From Merriam Webster)


 
pollinator
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The main advantage of organic seeds is the epigenetics. Basically, when the parent was stressed (disease, drought) the child is more resistant. Also, less pampering = more selection for robust offspring. the scientific argument.

Additionally, the land that is under organic cultivation benefits, the soil, the ecosystem, and the farmer. That's an ethical argument.

A seed is a seed. That is, a conventional seed grown organically will not be "damaged" because the parent plant was not grown organically. So if you can't get organic, use conventional seed. Better still, keep some seed produced by your own crop and in 3 years you'll get a landrace adapted to your environment. See Joseph Lofthouse's excellent threads on this subject.

Only exception, "enrobed" seeds may have been treated with pesticides or fungicides. Avoid those.
 
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 I agree with Susan...
 I think one of the main advantages of purchasing organic seed is that your buying from 'that guy'.  your supporting someone who puts the effort in to grow organically, who keeps his soil and all the microbes in it healthy and sustainable.
 I have been saving the majority of my seeds for many many years but I originally purchased them from somewhere. The high brix and quality of my produce comes from my soil. I feed the soil, not the plants. It will be the same for you no matter where the seed comes from.
 
steward
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I worked as an analytical chemist, using the aforementioned isotopes, to track what happened to the poisons when they were applied to a plant or the soil. Therefore, I'm not worried about the small amount of chemicals on a seed. They get highly diluted, and degrade in the ecosystem.

As also mentioned, there is the issue of what system you choose to grow in. If you choose to plant seeds that have been treated with chemicals and synthetic fertilizers for decades, you are choosing plants who's genetics have been deliberately and inadvertently selected to depend on those conditions. Then when they experience the bugs, microbes, and soils in a more natural garden, they are at a disadvantage.
 
Patrick Edwards
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Thanks, y'all. That pretty well answered my questions.
 
pollinator
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A good analogue is how farm raised salmon loos the ability to reproduce naturally in about four generations as I’ve been told by fisheries biologists. Organic, or better, will require parent genetics to survive in more diverse and regenerative conditions in competition with weeds and with potential pests around. This is the long term value of such seed.
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