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seeds Extremely old (80 years?) seed germination question


I was very into growing peppers a few years ago and at the time wondered how the pepper taste has changed over the years. Wondering led me to find a vintage "red crushed pepper" jar on ebay that seems to be from about 1940(?). The jar was full! And has LOTS of seeds. Due to a large life upheaval, I did not grow anything for the past 4-5 years, but found the jar in the salad crisper of my fridge and thought I'd give them a test for viability.

Now these peppers may have been kiln dried so may all be dead. However I've tried a few methods and have had what seems to me to be signs of life. But maybe they aren't?

First I simply soaked the seeds in water, and then tried the water paper towel method. No luck.

Then I soaked the seeds in weak sucrose water, washed and then onto paper towels. One out of 20 seeds poked a radicle out and then stalled and died.

I assumed the seeds were lacking in something, so I then soaked the seeds in coconut water I took from a coconut, washed and then onto paper towels. 3 out of 20 seeds poked a radicle out. Then they all stalled and died.

A long time ago, I got my PhD in novel cancer therapy treatments so decided to get a bit more sciencey. I soaked some seeds in plain water and then plated them onto agar containing half strength Murashige and Skoog medium with vitamins and sucrose. This was a couple of days ago. I've had one seed poke out a radicle, However, in 12 hours it hasn't grown in length significantly.

I know VERY little about seeds/germination etc. and I may be fooling myself. Can these radicles emerging be purely a result of the seeds taking in water and swelling, forcing the radicle out? Or would they only do that if there was, initially at least, viability?

This is the current state of the seed:

Here is the most advanced one from the coconut water soaking. Too long to be purely from swelling?:

And here is a picture of the jar of old seeds. I've only estimated the age at 80 years as I can't find any more info online about accurate age. Any suggestions would be great!

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I think the approach with supplying the seeds with the necessary nutrients, they normally get from the motherplant and is lost in al those years, is the right way to go. The little radicles look great and willing. Maybe the seedhulls became very hard or otherwise too tough for the tiny plants to shed. Maybe roughing the seedhulls up with some hydrogen peroxide or other acids could make it easier on them. Or maybe some mechanical intervention like cutting off the edges with nailclippers or something like that could also do the trick. Anyways, awesome to see those seeds viable after all that time. Be following your progress for sure!
I'm sometimes struckling with the new seeds that came from my plants. 80 years old DNA can be good or not. I'm hoping it's good variety if you can get it to geminate.
What a neat project.
I read somewhere about using bird poop as a nutrient for germinating chile seeds since most of them in the wild go through a birds gut first b
VERY interesting project! I'm following this one, and wish you all the best of luck. I hope you keep us updated! I'm sorry I can't give you any good advice since I'm way out of my depths here.

The Hot Pepper

And here is a picture of the jar of old seeds. I've only estimated the age at 80 years as I can't find any more info online about accurate age. Any suggestions would be great!
I started with a trademark search. 🙂

First use: 4/15/1957

Seems the oldest it can be is 65 years. 😉
Would be interesting to see the progress on this one. I've been able to germinate 10-year old seeds using h2o2, and the science to back this up is in this great post by @CaneDog https://thehotpepper.com/threads/hydrogen-peroxide-h2o2-and-seed-germination.71125/

I've also been able to successfully germinate chiltepin seeds in a 1:5 bleach:water solution as mentioned in Paul Bosland's books...

Good luck!
Why I can't find any numbers the increased germination of using h2o2? Just noticed some toothpastes has also it because it bleach teeths and sanitize. Could it work too? 😏


Extreme Member
I was also surprised not to see hydrogen peroxide as the first port of call. My understanding is that hypoxia is among the many issues with old seeds, and H2O2 directly provides free oxygen.
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What do you mean? There's a full study in the thread that was attached which goes in extensive detail on the procedure + results. The numbers are there.
Upsie. I didn't look at that data. I checked the thread and googled it but didn't click that link. I'll read it now. Thanks.
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Love this stuff. I have also played around trying to revive some old seeds, with similar results. My conclusion is the same. I have a goto presoak I use every year and it works a charm for stubborn seeds. It is water with 0.3% Hydrogen Peroxide, Potassium Nitrate and a drop of liquid soap. It works magic on moderately old seeds, but I have not had much luck with very old seeds. This season I will be playing around with GA3, there may be something there to kick start that further growth.
My go-to for all seeds is a few drops of Dip & Root (4-Indole-3-Butyric Acid & 1-Naphty-Acetic Acid) in the soak. I've managed to get some 15 year old birdseye seeds to germinate. Granted, those seeds were from a pod I found at the back of the fridge, that my dad grew before he passed on.