How to get free seeds from the government seed bank
The US government maintains an enormous seed bank and will send you seeds if you are doing research. I recently asked for and received about 40 different varieties of grain including wheat, emmer, einkorn, spelt, oats and barley. Amazingly they’re efficient: I received the seeds within days of putting in the order. And free! They don’t even ask for postage. What is the catch? Well I had to invest quite a bit of time figuring out how to use their site. They seem to use a different language. For instance if you want a variety of wheat, it is not called a variety, but rather an accession. And if you want to order that “accession, you “order this germplasm.” Ha! It is such a different language that when I wrote “germplasm” the spellchecker on my computer underlined it in red!
For my good deed of the day, I’m going to tell people how to use the seed bank site. I hope that the worker who fills the orders doesn’t curse me if he/she gets inundated with orders, but perhaps can look on the work as job security.
First you go to: http://www.ars-grin.gov/npgs/acc/acc_queries.html which is a USDA site titled:
National Plant Germplasm System
Accession Area Queries
Under these titles is a place with a box titled:
Text search query
In the box under that you simply type in the type of plant you are interested in. For instance if you are interested in wheat, type “wheat”. If you specifically want durum wheat, type “durum wheat”.
Typing wheat and hitting “submit text query” brought me approximately 62,000 results! Fortunately they are graded according to qualities such as disease resistance and yield, so the best varieties show up in the first few pages. With my seach for wheat, the first one listed on the page has a hyper link: 1 PI 495594 – Triticum aestivum subsp. aestivum – TAM 107 – Texas, United States — rank: 1000 that if I click on it gives me more information about that particular accession.
If you click the link on a particular accession, and scroll down there is a heading “availability”, and a hyperlink “Request this germplasm“. All you do is click that and it begins a ledger with your order. I’ve ordered 40 or more varieties of germplasm with no complaint. However they do ask you, when you “complete your order” what research project you are doing and in conjunction with whom. I’ve legitimately been doing grain research with the Self Reliant Community in Graham, Washington and have ordered exclusively grains. One of our members ordered a variety of germplasms and got a note with his order saying that they aren’t there to supply gardeners with seeds, but rather to supply researchers.
My seeds have come within days of placing the order. The amounts of each variety is quite small, however, usually only about a teaspoon of seeds–I mean germplasms.
Good luck! Please comment to let me know how it worked for you!