Eli5: How are seeds commercially produced?


For example: grass seeds or tomatoe seeds. Do factories grow millions of plants for the purpose of harvesting their seeds?


In: 5

Essentially, yes.

It’s more complicated than that, naturally, as the company producing the seeds has to keep a strict control of the process to ensure that you are getting what the package says. Plants can change rapidly in just a few generations – enough that the plant on the package may noticeably be different than what you end up growing. So generally you have experienced plant breeders running things to ensure that happens as little as possible. (Not an easy job, keeping a plant nearly identical for multiple generations.)

But essentially, you hit the nail on the head. You’ve got a whole facility (greenhouse, single field, entire farm, etc) dedicated to producing plants that will be allowed to produce seeds, which will normally be tested (small scale grow outs of a sampling of the seed, for example) to ensure no changes in that generation, before entire seed lots are packaged for sale. And the goal is to keep those plants as identical as humanly possible, for as long as there is a market for them.