Editor’s Note: Thank you for your interest and enthusiasm for the ADAPT program. We have reached our capacity and the trial sign-ups are now closed.
Do you enjoy gardening? Do you like growing truly unique varieties? Do you love knowing that you are contributing to a good cause like increasing biodiversity? Do you want to try something new in 2024?
If you answered “yes” to any (or all) of these questions, then Seed Savers Exchange has an exciting opportunity for you: the Community Science ADAPT program.
What is ADAPT? It’s a fun and exciting way to get involved in Seed Savers Exchange’s mission to preserve and share open-pollinated seeds and foster biodiversity. Participants trial varieties from SSE’s seed bank in their own gardens and evaluate them on key characteristics, including yield, flavor, earliness, appearance, and disease resistance, helping SSE understand the adaptability of different varieties across multiple environments. The ADAPT program also serves to highlight outstanding varieties from the collection and guide the selection of new seed introductions into the annual SSE catalog.
In 2023, almost 700 individuals in various growing zones across the United States and Canada took part in ADAPT, including Kylie Sparrow Connatser. Kylie describes participating in the ADAPT program as “one of the highlights” of her gardening journey. “Prior to joining ADAPT, I rarely ventured into growing from seed, but now an impressive 95 percent of my garden consists of plants grown from seeds, and the sense of accomplishment is truly exhilarating,” she says. “Through ADAPT, I’ve had the privilege of uncovering diverse crop varieties that I might never have encountered otherwise, some of which have become yearly staples in my garden.”
What did SSE learn from its 2023 trials of seven different crop types? Plenty. The ‘Southern Greasy’ variety of collard green, for example, has solid pest resistance, while the ‘Albina Verduna’ white beet is so sweet it almost tastes like sweet corn. As for the ‘Picksy Stripe’ dwarf tomato—well, with the help of the 2023 ADAPT participants, we confirmed this variety is perfect for stuffing. Thanks to the efforts of gardeners across North America, SSE has added this information (and much more) to its descriptions of varieties grown this past year.
The 2024 ADAPT trials will offer 11 crops from which to choose. Participants will select the crop(s) they want to trial—up to four different ones—and will then be randomly assigned three varieties of each crop to grow side-by-side under the same conditions. In February, SSE will send participants a kit containing seeds, plant labels, a data sheet, and instructions for submitting their data. Interested individuals should sign up by January 26 (or until the trials reach capacity) or visit seedsavers.org/preservation/adapt/.