Seed Shortage Next Growing Season

Unfortunately, production of commercial crop seeds is concentrated it a few small areas. Partly, this results from the regulatory burden of making certified seeds. Anyone can save seeds (and I do) but it takes some skill and some varieties have issues with crossing if not strongly isolated. Corn, for example, will have pollen drift of miles. So being in an isolated valley can be a feature.

I first learned about this at about 7 years old. Dad had a big garden in the back yard. About 20 x 50 feet. He planted a block of sweet corn, being from Iowa. I “helped” some days later by planting some more corn into the same block, from a cob of decoration saved from Thanksgiving. Yeah, Indian Corn of the flint type. Corn shows the genes of both parents in the kernels, so Dad’s sweet corn ended up a not so sweet hybrid. Thus started my education in genetics, seed saving, and asking permission…

But… we just had a crop failure due to excessive cold in the valley that makes most of the seeds for a couple of crops. Also, we had a failure of potato crops. Potatoes are grown from chunks of other potatoes. While there are potato seeds, they do not “come true” as they out cross. So issues in potato growth also hit the “seed potato” crop. And that is what has happened.

Taken together, this means that while we had lower crops this year, it gets worse next year. Even if the weather is good, and I expect it to be worse. Stock up some emergency stores now. It will be at least 3 years to get out of this mess.

Here’s the search result:

Dry bean growers face seed shortage | INFORUM
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FARGO – Even as American demand for dry beans is high, the production could be regulated by an increasingly apparent shortage of seed – both because of freeze damage in key seed production areas …

Early October cold could lead to shortage of sweet corn seed …
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The Treasure Valley produces over 60% of the world’s temperate sweet corn seed, and, along with eastern Oregon and the Magic Valley, about 95% of the world’s dry bean seed.

Mexican bean shortage difficult to fill | The Western Producer
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Dec 19, 2019There will likely be huge demand for black and pinto beans coming out of Mexico this year. The problem will be finding ample supply to meet that demand, … Mexican bean shortage difficult to fill …

Early October cold could lead to shortage of sweet corn seed …
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Oct 25, 2019With the recent uncharacteristically cold weather — lows in the 20s and low-30s — up to one fifth of the valley’s sweet corn seed and 15 percent of the dry bean seed could be lost.

Idaho – Early cold could lead to seed shortage – Ice Age Now
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Oct 22, 2019With last week’s uncharacteristically cold weather — lows in the 20s and low-30s — up to one fifth of the valley’s sweet corn seed and 15% of the dry bean seed could be lost. “The world market may see a shortage of sweet corn,” said George Crookham, CEO of Crookham Company in Caldwell, Idaho.

So yeah, that’s a problem. There were similar losses in other food crop seeds. I’m not worried as I have a freezer full of seeds. A couple of decades worth. So worst case for me is I need to do some garden work. How about you? Any food stored? Any seeds in tbe freezer? Got a garden?

This will get worse as the Grand Solar Minimum deepens, so prepare while you can. Really.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Emergency Preparation and Risks, Food, Global Cooling, Plants - Seeds - Gardening and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Seed Shortage Next Growing Season

  1. Serioso says:

    If you haven’t read it yet, see Michael Pollan’s book, “The Botany of Desire,” in re seeds that do not breed true.

  2. beththeserf says:

    Good advice E.M. Ant and grasshopper.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    Some plants out cross to create more variety, improving odds of some surviving. Others are self fertile and keep a constant type much more often. Others are in between. Much of seed saving involves learning the habits of different plants. Self fertile ones are easiest to preserve variety type.
    Wind blown pollen types, like corn, are the hardest. Insect pollinated are in between, separation needed being one insect range plus a bit. Then there are bi-annuals that seed the second year, like the various brassicas. Oh, and seeds you can’t save, like fruit trees – recalcitrant seeds that must be quickly planted.

    For many fruit trees, to preserve type they are propagated from cuttings.

    Then there are the beneficial mules. Nectarines are a plum peach hybrid. Crossing different varieties gives many different kinds of nectarine,

    So it goes.

    Oh, and consider that many stone fruit evolved when dinosaurs were around. Big tasty fruit swallowed whole, then the seeds pooped out later. Lucky for us that dinosaurs liked fruit :-)

    The present seed shortage will mostly hit commercial types. The informal seed savers and heirloom folks are more geographically diverse. So your Mexican pinto beans may be harder to find dirt cheap, but the more exotic types will still be around. I may try my hand at growing some dry beans this year. I’ve done small lots for seed saving, but not a big plot for eating. OTOH, I have 25 lbs of pintos in jars already, so maybe I’ll just eat them ;-)

  4. beththeserf says:

    Yer breadth of research
    astonishes serfs. :)

  5. E.M.Smith says:


    Just takes one $20 book. “Seed To Seed”.

    Bought mine a decade or two ago. Pretty much covers everything you need about saving seeds.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    Hmmm… looks like the bean harvest was also bad across all of north America.

    MarketsFarm — A challenging harvest season spelled trouble for dry bean yields across North America, according to one report from the Global Pulse Confederation.

    Mexico’s spring-summer bean crop yield was pegged at around 400,000 tonnes, which was 52 per cent lower than the previous year. The loss in production was largely due to drought conditions in key growing regions. Because of the significantly lower output, the report expected Mexico to be “in the market for black beans” in the coming year.

    Canada’s yield loss was less drastic, though Canadian producers battled a dry growing season and a cold, wet fall.

    According to Statistics Canada, the 2019 bean harvest totaled 316,800 million tonnes, which was seven per cent lower than the year prior. That was mainly due to fields that went unharvested due to challenging weather.

    In Ontario, 90 to 95 per cent of bean crops were harvested, according to Keven Sawchuk of Viterra. In Manitoba, about 15 per cent of beans were unharvested, and further west about five to seven per cent of beans stayed in their fields.

    The article quotes USDA as estimating US Production down about 4 percent, but a farmer video claimed the USDA was overstating production by counting crop stuck in the fields as storage instead of lost. They claimed the USA was down about 1/3 IIRC.

    If you use a lot of beans, buy them now.

  7. Nancy & John Hultquist says:

    This will get worse as the Grand Solar Minimum deepens, …

    Meanwhile, others proclaim Earth is overheating.
    We have had parallel universes intersect, it seems.
    Luboš Motl put up a post on the 23rd about the European Green Deal: 120 silly demands. (His language is quite ‘colorful’.)

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    Until prices and shortages show up in grocery stores a large percentage of people will not know of or understand crop failure.
    Two or three years of bad growing seasons will be necessary to raise general awareness. Lots of distractions: impeachment, Chinese coronavirus, Brexit, Meghan & Harry, POTUS election, …

    Many can’t grow much (housing situation, age, geographic location) but they can stock up on canned and dried food. Prepared beans in a can – like Bush’s from Tenn – will last several years in a cool dry place. Having a slow-cooker (CrockPot) is a good idea, too.

    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    Next: the region of Idaho and Oregon mentioned is also, I recall, a source of seeds for flowers. Not an issue, I guess, but during bloom times there are some colorful fields.

  8. E.M.Smith says:

    Ah, this likely explains it. Acres up a lot in the USA resulting in only a small single digit drop in total harvest.

    Planting and Growing Conditions

    Acreage of dry beans in 2019 increased approximately 20% over 2018 acreage,
    with notable growth in acres of white and adzuki beans. Challenging planting conditions for corn and soybeans were likely a factor in the increased acres of dry beans in 2019. The general target for planting dry beans is June 1st or after the last frost, so rather than planting corn and soybeans late producers may have switched some acres to dry beans.

    Looks like a lot of the increase was in white beans and adzuki. So pintos and black beans the more likely ones for shortage.

  9. beththeserf says:

    Thanks for that source on saving seeds, EM.

  10. Russ Wood says:

    Freezing your spare seeds might not work… I read that the seed bank at Longyearben on Spitzbergen had to replace some of its seeds after a few years. It appears that it’s not just the cold that preserves them. You might be advised to check the seeds’ viability after a couple of years.

  11. E.M.Smith says:


    I regularly “check my seeds” via planting, harvesting, and letting some run to seed again. I have several ascensions of most plants I like. Plus, for some, I do durability tests. Longest I’ve done so far is a 16 years cycle. Only so many of those you can do…

    What determines long term storage life:

    Cold. Colder is better, with a lot just in the fridge, but the biggest gains come at freezing.

    Dry. Seeds that get damp go off (I.e. die, try to sprout, mold, oxidize.)

    Oxidation. High tannin seeds like lentils store longer as it is an oxygen getter.

    Thermal cycling. Every thaw starts the “is is spring yet?” testing genes. Best to only thaw what you will plant. It also tends to condense moisture if uncareful and impatient.

    Then, some seeds always store longer than others. An ascension with many variations, after repeated storage / grow out cycles (especially long ones that stress the seed) will eventually suffer loss of variation as you are selecting for those individual genes that store well. Then you go back to the land race or other seed stocks to refresh it. IIRC that’s what happened at one seed bank.

    I store my very dry seeds in sealed glass jars in the freezer. So far, never lost a jar.

    I have lost seeds stored in a mini fridge when power went out, the freezer part melted, and mold took the seeds in paper envelopes. (Working store of stuff freshly harvested or preparing to plant)

    Warm, wet and paper not a good combination.

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