MSU launches online seed research data file, updated training

Contact: Karen Brasher

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Nearly five decades of Mississippi State’s internationally recognized research in seed technology now is available online.

Former university employee Bennie Keith recently joined with administrators of Mississippi State University Libraries to digitize and provide easy access to a half-century of work compiled at the campus-based Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station.

From 1950-98, scientists with the MAFES Seed Technology Laboratory traveled regularly throughout the nation and world to share their findings.

Keith, who held numerous lab positions, now directs the Mississippi Crop Improvement Association. Formerly the Mississippi Seed Improvement Association, MCIA continues to operate from the Starkville campus.

“These papers represent a tremendous effort conducted by Mississippi State faculty, staff and students that became the basis for much of the seed research conducted in the U.S at the time, and still is relevant today for the large seed companies,” Keith said.

The archive may be accessed at

According to the MSU doctoral graduate in agronomy, the seed industry fundamentally changed some 25 years ago, evolving from small family-run businesses to large agricultural companies. With changes came both an increased importance of seed technologies and the cost of seeds, he added.

Keith said modern varieties are genetically modified to meet demands for improved yield and effects of insect, weed and disease pressures.

“Farmers are placing a much higher demand on seed and spending more money for certified seeds that provides assurance of uniformity across their crops,” he explained. “As new seed technologies emerge through the various genetic modifications, seed is more valuable than it was before and often has a shorter lifespan as new varieties come on the market.”

While technologies may have changed, the need for basic information remains critical. The recent resurgence in seed technology has created a pressing need to have past research available to current industry users, Keith said. 

Stephen Cunetto, associate dean of MSU Libraries, said he and his colleagues appreciated being asked “to digitize, archive and provide online access to this unique collection of papers that will be invaluable to researchers throughout the world.” 

Renewed interest in decades of MSU seed research also has led to the reintroduction of a popular short-course to provide individualized training for industry representatives, as well as producers and agriculture specialists.

Jason Ward, assistant extension professor, leads the course now in its second year.

“Our goals are to work through the entire seed value chain,” Ward said. “Last year, we focused on harvesting and storing seed because that is where the needs were according to industry representatives. This year’s course covers everything from bin to bag and will include techniques in seed cleaning, separating and sorting.”

The next course takes place Tuesday and Wednesday [Aug. 2 and 3] at MSU’s Bost Extension Center. In addition to viewing demonstrations of the latest equipment, participants will attend sessions on seed testing and labeling, along with intellectual property, legal and litigation issues.

Ward said registration remains open at

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at