Vegetable Seed Production

Current State of the Industry

Seed Companies

Most seed companies do an outstanding job of producing and selling vigorous seeds of high viability. Most large vegetable seed companies no longer compete with one another on the basis of seed viability (whether or not their seeds germinate) but rather on the vigor of seeds (how well they germinate).

See these images for more information on seed vigor (click image for large version):

Also the last 50 years has seen much progress in the packaging and treating of vegetable seeds. Much of the success of seed companies lies with plant breeders who are constantly developing vegetable cultivars of the highest quality. In many cases, yields and pest resistance of new cultivars exceed the old. This is in stark contrast to about 60 years ago when many growers still saved their own seeds. Today relatively inexpensive, high quality seeds can be purchased retail, from dealers, via catalog, or over the web.

Not too long ago each region of the country had at least one and in many cases several vegetable seed companies that would specialize in developing cultivars for their region. However, over the years many of these smaller companies consolidated or ceased operation. This consolidation has paralleled the decrease in the number of vegetable farms in the US.
The number of companies that actually produce their own seeds and develop new cultivars has been steadily decreasing over the past 60 years. Like other industries, the seed industry has seen much consolidation and increased specialization. For example, some companies do not actually produce seeds or develop new cultivars but rather specialize only in retail sales. Of these companies, there are those that specialize in the home garden trade and others who cater to commercial growers. Some seed companies specialize in seed production and cultivar development and do not retail the seeds they produce, while other companies are involved in all aspects of the seed trade. Several companies do not sell seeds but specialize in treating seeds produced by other companies. Some companies specialize in specific crops and wholesales them to companies specializing in retail sales.

Today, a handful of large multi-national companies own many of the vegetable seed producing companies in the US. Many of the large vegetable seed companies are multinational. Very few of these companies are privately owned. Many are owned by other large multinational corporations. For example, Petoseed, Royal Sluis, Asgrow vegetable seeds and several other seed companies are part of the Seminis group which used to be an independent company but is now part of the Monsanto group. Many people consider Monstanto to be the largest seed producing company in the world.

There are successful small vegetable seed companies as well. The need for organically produced seeds has created a niche market that is being filled by some small companies. Certain companies have catered to regional markets and the need for open pollinated and heirloom cultivars that are popular with some groups.

In addition to reading the information in this section, please view this video on Seed Vigour

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