ECHO Research Highlight: Low-Cost Seed Storage Technologies
Seeds maintained by local, community seed banks help protect crop diversity. Small-scale seed banks in the tropics often operate with few resources and under conditions of high heat and humidity that favor the rapid deterioration of seeds. In 2017, ECHO’s seed bank in Thailand led a joint effort with ECHO’s Florida-based seed bank to investigate low-cost methods of storing seeds in places without electricity for climate-controlled storage. It compares a range of technologies available in Thailand, including two vacuum sealing approaches (machine-sealing versus a modified bicycle pump) and two desiccants (calcium oxide [burnt lime or quicklime] and Zeolite Drying Beads®). These technologies were evaluated over a 1-year period with seeds of three crops: sorghum, velvet bean, and cowpea. Simply drawing a vacuum on seeds in glass jars, using a cheaply-modified bicycle pump, turned out to be a top-performing treatment! Zeolite beads were highly effective in lowering the moisture content of seeds and keeping them dry. Findings were published in Experimental Agriculture in 2021. Click here to view the abstract, which will contain more details. We were unable to publish the article with open access to the full manuscript, but we plan to summarize the main points in a future issue of ECHO Development Notes.