Save A Seedline

The Brassica Project

Holding on to our cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts seeds well into the future will require a tremendous amount of effort from all fronts. Brassicas have traditionally been a very important part of our diet and nutrition, especially in the winter months. We urgently need to return to a process that will keep these seed strong for the future. For many years now, the range of available varieties of these important crops has been shrinking. Today, we have less than 10% of the cultivars we had just 100 years ago.

 How has this happened?

For starters, Brassicas are far more difficult to grow to seed than most other crops. The most difficult aspect of growing brassicas though, is keeping the line from crossing. In order to keep your broccoli from becoming brockale each flowing brassica must be planted at least 2km from the other to allow them to self-pollinate. Keeping the lines strong is a different matter all together. It requires a massive grow out takes over two years per line. Commercial seed corporations used to this but ceased the practice due to the labor intensity.

 What is involved in a grow out?

To do a comprehensive grow out we must plant a minimum of 300 lets use Ruapehu Cauliflower as an example. Of those plants we will rouge out 100 of the weakest or least true to type plants. When those 200 plants are mature, we dig up the 6-10 cauliflower plants and plant each of them far away from one another. At this stage they will self-pollinate.  Next we harvest the seed from each and store them separately.

 The next step is to grow 50 plants from each set of seeds we collected. We will plant these all together in one place. Because they were self-pollinated there will be a lot of variation in these plants and any weaknesses will be amplified. When they get to the eating stage we choose the 10 best plants out of each 50, let them all go to seed and cross pollinate again. This means you’ll have around a hundred most true to type strong plants to save seed from again.

It sound intense right? Now you can see why people stopped doing it. But for us, this is the work that matters.

 What can we do together?

All the work we put into maintaining the brassicas cannot be recaptured by selling the seeds becasue this work is unrecognized in a monetary sense in the seed industry. We are saddened by the losses we incur for every package of seeds we sell. But we are emboldened in our mission to continue this work! We’ve done the math and we estimate it will cost $4,000 over 2 years to do a comprehensive grow out of just 1 line. If we do the comprehensive grow outs here at Koanga each year and each line needs this done every 10 years then we can hold 10 brassicas in our collection and know they will be strong for the long haul. Using regenerative growing systems (unlike all commercial seed) we will be very certain to be selecting for NZ environmental and climatic conditions and and over time these 10 cultivars will be not only nutrient dense but the best of what New Zealand has to offer.

 With your support we can make this effort a success. We’re aiming to have $4,000 worth of adoptive parents to do this each year. Forty of you gifting $100 would achieve this! We’d love to send you monthly updates with pictures of our progress. This season we aim to do this kind of a growout with Ruapehu Cauliflower, a very very special NZ heritage cauliflower that is not currently available through commercial sources. Please stay tuned for upcoming details.