How to use the Plant Variety Record (PVR)

So you're coming to a Community Seed Swap?! Great!

The information below was compiled to help you to describe, count, and package your seeds for the swap (and to understand how to read the PVRs that others offer). First, complete a Plant Variety Record (PVR) for each packet that you will offer (if you are offering bulbs, tubers, cuttings, or plants, you should also use this form, but the procedure will be a little different).

How to fill out a Plant Variety Record (PVR)

Below is a snapshot of the PVR, explained at right. To print your own copies (four per page), follow this link!

Qty. - This is a number defined by the Exchange (after careful consideration of many factors). For the general swap at each Community Seed Swap, packets must contain these quantities. By defining set quantities, we are able to help ensure that each swap is equitable to the other members and to the Exchange as a whole. Quantities vary by species. Read about Exchange Standards for Swap Quantities and Values here!

Swap value - For the general swap at each Community Seed Swap, assign a $1, $2, or $3 value to each packet based on the Exchange Standards page. You may pro-rate your packets for smaller quantities (in whole dollar increments). If a $3 packet contains a minimum of 30 seeds, you may instead pack 20 seeds for $2, or 10 seeds for $1. Likewise if it should contain 90 seeds, you may pack 60 seeds for $2, or 30 for $1. 

VARIETY DATA - This section contains covers the identity, description, cultivation, and history of a variety. Please visit the Exchange Guidelines and read "What to swap" and "What not to swap" before offering your variety. 

Variety name - This is the part of the name that precedes the common name. For example, for "Wild Bill's Brandywine Tomato," the variety name is "Wild Bill's Brandywine." Record the name exactly as you first received it. (Each time someone changes it even slightly, it begins to mimic the game of "telephone.") If you forgot the name, write "unknown." Don't rename it! If you have your own name for it, you can say so in the description.

Species common name - This is the species name that is in general use. "Tomato," "Basil," and "Pumpkin" are examples of some common names.

Species scientific name - A.k.a. Latin name. This name is often more useful to seed savers than the common name, so it is very helpful to include it in addition to the common name. For example, a "pumpkin" may be Cucurbita pepo, C. argyrosperma, C. maxima, or C. moschata. If you know the scientific name, you may be able to grow two pumpkin species alongside each other without fears of crossing. If you don't know the scientific name, you may find it online or leave this blank.

Description - This is a very open-ended field where you can write anything that doesn't have a home elsewhere on the PVR. This is also a very important field. Please don't limit yourself to three lines of data, but use the back of the page and consider the following questions:
  • Do you have special tips for successfully growing this variety in your region?
  • How long is the growing season from time of planting until harvest? How can you tell when it's ripe?
  • What part(s) of the plant is/are edible? What color is the fruit (inside and out)?
  • What is the flavor? What is it best used for? Is this variety strongly associated with a particular recipe or tradition?
  • What is the history of this variety (before it came to you?) If the story of how it came to you is of interest, share this too!
  • What else?
SEED DATA - This section contains information specific to your variety, but only in its recent history. Here you can share where you got your original seeds, and tell us details about the current batch of seeds that you are swapping.

What is the source of your original seed? - Write the name of an individual, company, or organization. Sample answers are "Bill McDorman," "Southern Exposure Seed Exchange," and "Pima County Seed Library" (if more specific information on the donor is available, cite this too). Continue on the back if needed.

Did you grow this (current batch) of seed? - If you were responsible for growing and harvesting this seed, circle "yes." Otherwise, circle "no."

Where was it grown? - If the seed that you are swapping came from a commercial source, you needn't cite its location. Most companies use seed grown by subcontractors in far-flung regions, so their location is unlikely to shed any light on the adaptation of the variety. Locally-grown seeds are far more advantageous to the members of the Exchange, as they are known quantities accompanied by your cultivation experience.

Was this crop isolated to prevent outcrossing? - If your seed was isolated (intentionally or by happenstance) from potential cross-contamination by other varieties or species, then circle "yes." If not, circle "no." In some cases, you will not need to do anything at all to keep your seeds from crossing, but usually you will need to deliberately isolate your blooms or plants using distance, bagging, or timing. For more information about isolating your crops, visit the resources on our Seed Saving 101 page.

How many plants contributed to this batch of seeds? - Many varieties can be maintained successfully by saving seeds from only a single plant. For others, maintaining the full spectrum of genetic diversity within a variety requires seed saving from many individual plants of the same variety. This is known as "minimum population size for maintaining genetic diversity." We ask you to share how many plants contributed seeds to your seed batch so that members who are concerned with the long-term maintenance of a variety can gauge the relative value of seed batches for that purpose. For some species, it is also helpful if you record how many individual fruits contributed seeds to a batch. We plan to provide more resources on this topic soon.

When were these seeds harvested? - Share the month and year of your seed harvest. This tells other members a little bit about seed freshness. While we don't ask you to report germination statistics on your seed batches, it would be helpful for you to occasionally test your seeds and make sure that they are still viable.

MEMBER DATA - This helps members of the Exchange to find more seeds if needed, and fosters a sense of community within the exchange. 

Swapped by - Please share your first and last name, and a nickname if you wish.

Contact info - This is optional, but helpful.

Using the PVR for plants and other non-seed germplasm

Non-seed germplasm is not accepted at the general swap at the Community Seed Exchange. This means that you may not trade it for tokens when you check in. This does not mean that we do not encourage you to trade this germplasm, it simply means that the Exchange will not oversee this type of swap. You are welcome to bring your non-seed germplasm to a Community Seed Swap and engage in swapping on-on-one with other willing members. You can use the PVR for swapping bulbs, tubers, cuttings, and plants. Simply adjust these SEED DATA fields accordingly:

Qty. (and Swap value) - For one-on-one swapping at a Community Seed Swap, set your own quantities and swap values. Suggestions for a $3 swap value include:

  • Bulbs - 9 bunching/multiplier onions, 3 bulb onions, or 3 whole garlic cloves
  • Tubers/rhizomes - 3 medium-sized tubers
  • Cuttings/scions - 3 6"-8" (scions should have at least 4 buds each)
  • Plant starts - 1-3 in min. 2.25" pots (plants should have well-developed roots and be mature beyond susceptibility to damping-off)

Larger plants are also welcome in one-on-one swapping, but the Exchange does not offer suggestions for swap value since material is so variable.

What is the source of your original seed? - Share where you got the source plant.

Did you grow this (current batch) of seed? - Share whether you grew this germplasm yourself.

Where was it grown? - Share where you grew (or are currently growing) the parent/donor plant.

Was this crop isolated to prevent outcrossing? - Omit this answer.

How many plants contributed to this batch of seeds? - Omit this answer.

When were these seeds harvested? - Omit this answer.

Packing your seeds

You may use any paper or plastic envelope to pack your seeds. 3" x 5" zipper bags are widely available in craft and hardware stores, and are easy for members to file with other standard-sized seed packets. If you use standard paper envelopes, you may need to tape the corners to keep seeds from spilling out the gap. If you Google "how to make seed envelopes," you'll find many videos and diagrams for making handmade envelopes (some are better than others).

Fasten your PVR securely to each envelope with a stapler, tape, or glue (depending on envelope material).


Subpages (1): Exchange Standards