Western Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education
(SARE) Farm Internship Curriculum and Handbook


Published 2007
Updated 2010



Learning Objectives
The learner will…

  • Understand the basics of seeds, including botany, pollination, breeding and saving.


Basic Botany

  • Nomenclature (Family->Genus->Species->Variety)
    Ex. Carrots = Apiacea -> Daucus -> carrota – > “Scarlet Nantes”
  • Plants cross within a species (i.e. Zucchini (Cucurita pepo) will cross with pumpkins (C.pepo), but not with buttercup squash (C.maxima) but rarely across species barriers (think mules)
  • Flower parts (Pistil / Stamen / Anther / Style / petals / sepals / ovary)
  • Annual vs. biennial seed producers
  • Biennials include carrots, beets, parsley, cabbage family, kale, onions, leeks, Swiss chard
  • Monecious vs. Dioecious (i.e. spinach)



  • Insect Pollinated – cucurbits, Brassicas, onions, leeks, carrots, parsley
  • Wind-Pollinated – grasses (corn), beets, chard, spinach, oaks
  • Self-Pollinated – Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, beans, peas
  • Extra-floral nectarines – plants entice pollinators with the sweet stuff!


Cross Pollinated Crops

  • Need isolation from one another (usually a minimum of ½ mile)


Self Pollinated Crops

  • Less or no isolation requirements


Timed Isolation

  • Planting times are staggered to avoid overlapping flowering (work well with corn)


Inbreeding Depression

  • Minimum population sizes are needs with the cross-pollinated crops to avoid “bottlenecking” the genetic diversity of the population.
    • Generally 120 plants are required, an exception is the cucurbits, where you only need 10 plants.
    • Inbreeding depression is the result of too small of a population = reduced vigor, smaller yields, more susceptible to pests and disease



  • Refers to a crossing of two separate varieties. An F1 hybrid is generally when two uniform inbred lines are crossed. The resulting generation is the F1 (for first filial), and then next season would be the F2 and so forth.



  • Is the term to describe hybrid vigor which results from broadening the genetic base (the opposite of inbreeding depression)



  • A hybrid with many parents


Strain Cross

  • Crossing two strains of the same variety


Advantages to Saving Your Own Seed

  • Save money, seed security, and possible to select for adaptation to disease, pests, climate and soils; provide nectar source for pollinators and beneficial insects. Fun, learning and seed to share!


Wet Processed vs. Dry Processed Seeds

  • Wet processed include tomatoes, melons, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, peppers. Most all others are harvested when seedpods are dry


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