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Heirloom Seed Trials

Since 1978 The Diggers Club has championed the rescue and preservation of traditional, open pollinated seed varieties of vegetables, flowers and fruit. Retail nurseries and commercial growers continue to drop these precious heirlooms from their lists and without the vital work undertaken by Diggers many of them, representing 12,000 years of seed saving through generations, would be lost forever.

At Diggers, we are constantly trialling and testing our heirloom varieties to select the best garden worthy and edible range for our members and for perpetuity. We look for attributes suitable to home gardeners such as flavour and long harvest, as opposed to large commercial varieties that seek high yield or disease resistance. The rescue and introduction of heirlooms is an arduous task that requires at least a three year period of trialling, evaluating and ultimately seed production before a new variety is successfully introduced to the Diggers range. At Diggers we believe it is time well spent! Read the story of Frank's Peas, an heirloom variety originally cultivated by a Diggers member dating back to 1853, now rescued and once again available for home gardeners to enjoy.

Our comprehensive three year trials from 1994-1996 conducted by scientist, Dr Will Trueman, were the first of their kind in Australia comparing heirloom tomatoes with hybrids. The trials concluded that overall there were no advantages in growing hybrids and were a resounding affirmation of our advocacy for open pollinated tomatoes. Our extensive trials continue today at the Diggers Preservation Garden (DPG) in Dromana to ensure seed viability and true to type seed germination.

You will be shocked to know that typical seed merchants are importing 98% of their vegetable and flower seed lines into Australia, with only a tiny percentage grown here. Australia does not have a long tradition of seed grow outs and collection for sale like we find in USA and Europe. At the start of 2018 Diggers was importing 72% and producing 28% of our seed range in Australia. The figure is now 70% importation and 30% onshore production, with our steadfast commitment to eventually produce 100% of seeds onshore.

The ongoing work of The Diggers Foundation aims to preserve forever our precious publicly-owned heirloom seeds and to resist the corporatisation of our food supply. To see our commitment in action, take a look at our 2017/18 vegetable trials conducted at DPG.

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