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Farmers produced roughly 80,000 species of plants before the advent of industrialized agriculture. Now they rely on about 150. (Woman reaching for the last jar of seeds.) Postcard.

Farmers produced roughly 80,000 species of plants before the advent. Postcard.

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In agriculture and gardening, seed saving is the practice of saving seeds from open-pollinated vegetables, grain, herbs, and flowers for use from year to year for annuals and nuts, tree fruits, and berries for perennials and trees. This is the traditional way farms and gardens were maintained. In recent decades, there has been a major shift to purchasing seed annually from commercial seed suppliers, and to hybridized or cloned plants that do not produce seed that remains "true to type"-retaining the parent's characteristics- from seed. Much of the grassroots seed-saving activity today is the work of home gardeners. However, it is gaining popularity among organic farmers, permaculturists and enthusiasts with cultural or environmentalist interests.

Thousands of varieties of vegetables and flowers are being lost, due to reliance on commercial hybrid seed. Widespread use of a relatively few mass-marketed hybrid seed varieties, in both home gardening and commercial farming, are eliminating many open-pollinated varieties, especially the local variations that were naturally developed, when local seed-saving was the common practice. The concern is that this erodes the gene pool, resulting at some point in less hardy, more vulnerable plants. Countering this trend (an environmental and sustainability issue), and an affinity for variety and tradition, are the principal motivations for many large seed-saving groups.

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