MANN TALK: Seeds Are Life's Future

by Perry Mann
Perry Mann
Perry Mann
 In an article in Sierra magazine titled “Doomsday Bank. After Armageddon, Norway will be ready to reseed the world,” one reads a hopeful message:  

 “Fear not---come tsunami, asteroid impact, nuclear skirmish, or global climate change, gardeners will still be able to grow zucchini. The Norwegian government is planning to stash seeds from every one of the world’s known food crops in a frigid vault 600 miles from the North Pole.

  “The seed bank will be located behind thick walls of reinforced concrete, two air locks, and blast-proof doors, inside a sandstone mountain on the icy island of Spitsbergen. Designed to withstand natural and human-generated catastrophes, the cache is envisioned as a backup to the world’s 1,400 existing seed banks, many of which are vulnerable to war and natural disasters. The bank will be large enough to hold 2 million seeds, to be used only if every other specimen has disappeared. In the case of zucchini at least, that seems an unlikely scenario.”

   Nearly all living things produce seeds in order to propagate themselves and assure a future for their kind. When man and woman copulate the result often is a seed, that is, an egg fertilized by a sperm, from which there grows in the womb another human being who after birth   can with a being of the opposite sex produce another seed that grows into another human being.  And so forth. That seed is an embryo, which is the center of a controversy between church and science. No other seed has generated a controversy, except the poppy seed or any other seed that produces a narcotic substance.

   A mustard seed is a sphere that could sit atop a pin’s head with room to spare. Within it are an egg and a sperm united ready to produce more mustard seeds when in  soil that is fertile, watered and sunned. It is the same with the tomato seed, except that the tomato seed hasn’t the spherical symmetry of a mustard seed.  The tomato seed appears so lifeless that one cannot believe it possible for it to awake when planted and to produce the blessed third of a BLT. But that shriveled flake given ground and moisture and warmth will in months produce a fruit that has within it hundreds of seeds in a matrix of red flesh that the world desires and ingests with gusto.

A seed is a miracle. I cannot raise the dead to life but I can take a seed that has lain as if dead for ten years and introduce it to soil and water and sunlight and in a matter of days it will sprout. I have read that seeds from a Pharaoh’s tomb have when planted germinated. Is that not a miracle? In March I put twenty-four seeds in cups of soil and stationed them in a south window and watered them. They grew and in May I planted them. In late July and August I brought home buckets of tomatoes. In each tomato there were enough seeds to furnish the seeds for a thousand gardens. And in every seed was a potential plant that could produce a dozen or more tomatoes. The return for a gardener on his investment is astonishing. Wall Street prays that it could have such a return.

   Seeds are potential individuals. In every seed is a member of a new generation. If all seeds of a species die, then that which evolution spent millions of years creating is gone forever. Every animal is the product of a seed or embryo or whatever one wants to name a fertilized egg. Animals cannot be stored or their eggs stored in the manner the Norwegian plan to store plant seeds. So, animal life is subject to a survival-of-the-fittest environment. It must evolve in a changing environment and adapt to it or perish.

  Further, animal life is entirely dependent upon seeds. Seeds furnish man cornbread and wheat bread and rye bread and every other kind of bread. The fuel for a horse is clover and corn. Grass is milk converted by the workings of cow’s interior. Although some animals are carnivorous, they prey on animals that are herbivorous. The lion eats the gazelle and the gazelle eats plants. The animal man preys on everything, plant and animal, causing annually the extinction of many plants and animals.   

 However, seeds seem to thrive. Just after Christmas every year I get ten or more seed catalogs. I love seeds and gardens.  I love particularly to tell the miracle of a corn seed. Its shriveled, dried up look resembles a wrinkled crone. But plant one in May, and from that seed with showers and a few days to germinate, there will appear a wee green shoot, which in a few more days will unfold into a leafed stalk. With good weather, like any child, it will grow taller and its leaves grow wider and longer. When it reaches puberty, there appears at the juncture of leaf and stalk the female organ with silky hair and up top there appears the male organ or tassel, which when mature rains down pollen on the silks.

The pollen is the equivalent of sperm and each silk is attached to an egg that is attached to a cob within a shuck.  When the pollen alights on a silk in some mysterious way the egg on the cob to which it is attached is fertilized and it swells with pregnancy. When all the silks receive a pollen grain, the result in time is an ear of corn. Every ear of corn contains hundreds of grains in which there is in each an embryo and its legacy of stored nutrients to give it a start in life. A grain of corn is a seed and a seed is the future of corn and all seeds are the future of all life.   

  Thus, it is heartening to learn that Norway has provided an impregnable haven for all the known seeds so that in the event of catastrophe they will be safe; and in the event there are gardeners who survive the disaster they can plant again and raise food for themselves and their children. If the disaster happens to be Armageddon and the Rapture occurs, those left behind will be able to garden, and have thereby  a piece of heaven, and enjoy the miracle of seeds.
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Perry Mann is a former teacher, a lawyer, a former prosecuting attorney of Summers County and a columnist for Huntington News Network. He lives in Hinton, WV. He  was born in Charleston, WV in 1921.