How long is corn seed viable?

anney(Georgia 8)February 25, 2008

I won't be able to plant but about half of my corn seeds this summer and am wondering if the rest will last until next summer.

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ken_platt(z5/6 CT)

It should last fine, as long as you store it in a cool/dry environment. I keep extra seeds in a small tupperware container in the fridge, and have no trouble with most seeds being stored for 5-7 years (yes, years). After that I tend to discard, but for stuff that I consider not critical (you know, those crops that if they don't work out too well you aren't terribly upset) I may keep the seed for longer, and generally most of it germinates fine.

I can't even imagine how much money I'd be wasting if I had to buy all fresh seed every season.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 5:33PM
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aka_peggy(Central Md 6b)

I agree. I grew corn last summer from 4 yo seed. Almost every seed that I planted grew but I do keep it in the fridge.

I just germinated some italian flat onions from seed that's dated 2002. (I store onions seeds in the freezer) They were a little slow to germ but they're looking great.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 6:05PM
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anney(Georgia 8)

Thanks to you both!

I found a couple of internet sites claiming that open-pollinated corn seed that you save yourself is viable for only two years, and I was hoping that isn't true. I'm growing one OP and one hybrid and would hate to have to toss the rest -- who knows when it was harvested.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 6:44PM
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Most seeds can be stored indefinitely in the freezer at 0 degrees F in an airtight container. The seeds have to be dried first, by leaving them in an open container at room temperature for about 3 weeks. I germinated corn last year that was 23 years old. It seems to work for any seed that can stand to be dried. Some seeds can't be dried, like maple, oak, chestnut, and many tropicals.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 7:53PM
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Might consider testing your older seeds. Simply fill a pot with potting soil, water, add seed. Wait 5 - 10 days and you''ll know.

I usually put 10 seeds in each pot spread around. If I don't get a 70% germination rate I dump the seeds.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 8:56PM
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lilydude is right. Corn can be viable in the freezer for a long time. In 2006 I got 79% germination from corn seed that had been stored in the freezer since 1991.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 9:49PM
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sinfonian(U8b A2 S5 SeaWA)

Would you store seeds in the fridge if they're brand new and just waiting to plant them? I just have them in the bubblewrap packaging. I'd hate to lose them before I can even plant them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sinfonian's garden

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 10:59PM
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sinfonian, it depends on how long it would be before planting time and if I am going to be planting all the seeds. I definitely will store them in the freezer if I'm not planting all of the seeds.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2008 at 11:21PM
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Here is a tip for those who would like to try freezer storage. If you need some seeds out of the freezer, do not open the container while the seeds are cold. Moisture will condense on the cold seeds, which may greatly reduce their storage life. The correct method is to take the closed container out of the freezer, keep it closed, and let it thaw for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. By this time the seeds should be warm enough that condensation will not occur. Now you can open the container, remove the seeds that you need, and close the container and place it back in the freezer with the remaining seeds.

Any container that is airtight should work. I like ball mason jars, the big plastic peanut butter jars, and the big round plastic food storage containers with a tight-fitting cover. They all work fine.

If your freezer is self-defrosting, don't put your frozen seeds too close to the areas that defrost.

Don't forget to label your seeds.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2008 at 12:13AM
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Lilydude, that tip makes partial sense in that you would not want moisture condensation on your seeds. However, the thawing and refreezing cannot be good for the seeds either, especially when you consider that all warm air will contain some moisture that will enter the bag upon opening it.

I've been doing just the opposite in that I open the freezer bag within the freezer, dump out the seeds I need and immediately return the bag to the freezer. Have 7 year old onion and leek seeds that are germinating well using this method.

I'm not aware of a research study that compares these methods and I would like to use your method if seed viability is not altered because I am sort of forced to use all the seeds that I remove from the freezer.

I will note that I only have small seeds in my freezer in whirlpack plastic bags; onoins, leeks, Rosemary, thyme and lemon grass. I used to keep corn frozen but rather than going to the bother of saving many pounds of corn I find it simpler to just order my needs for the year. For all other seeds a bunch of metal lard cans have kept seeds for many years without any refrigeration. I have pepper seeds that are 17 years old that still germinate over 50%.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2008 at 10:45AM
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I once took a jar of bean seed out of the freezer and, absentmindedly opened it, removing some seed to mail, and resealed it. It only took, perhaps a minute. I then placed that jar in my closet, where it is relatively cool. The next spring, when I went to plant, I found that all of the beans in that jar were covered with a light layer of mold. I did a germination test and it was 0%! So I know that it's very important to avoid condensation. Perhaps Bmoser, your system works since you not only handle the seed in a cooler environment, but you also return unused seed to the freezer. Just an idea.

I've heard of corn, being stored in a closet for 20+ years and it having decent germination. In 2005 I received seed to a squash, which a friend had stored in his deep freeze, since 1986. I got about 95% germination. It was if it was only a year old!

Tahlequah, OK

    Bookmark   February 27, 2008 at 1:04PM
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bmoser, the only proof that I have that my method works is that I have seeds that are over 25 years old that still germinate. It's true that a little warm air gets in, but the moisture content is tiny, nothing compared to condensation. You don't want the seeds to have zero moisture content anyway. That's why I don't use a dessicant. Also, my method allows for a slow, controlled defrost rate for the seeds. This may be helpful in minimizing cell damage.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2008 at 1:47PM
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I have seen a corn seed that had to be well over 100 years old that came from corn husks that were being used to insulate the walls of a house here in the state of vermont, its a very cold climate here so they were in very good environment a pile of 100 or so husks produced 3 three stalks.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2010 at 1:36PM
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Anasazi corn is being offered now, and that variety is said to be 700-800 years old. Since that tribe/people are extinct, I'd guess the corn was grown from very old seed that (from my reading) seems to have been found in a dry cave or shelter area in the SW USA. That is remarkable if somehow corn that old was coaxed into germinating!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 8:11PM
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