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A pile of wheat kernels.

Donation seeds the future with genetic diversity

Bruce Tainio’s family and family business, Tainio Biologicals, Inc., have donated thousands of varieties of seed germplasm that he created over several decades as a geneticist near Spokane.

“Bruce worked with WSU professors for years,” said Steve Becker, chief science officer at the company and Bruce’s son-in-law. “He loved how WSU became such a respected leader in sustainably growing crops and respecting the soil for future generations.”

The donation includes seeds of different varieties of wheat, peas, barley, sunflowers, onions, and more, said Marc Tainio, Bruce’s son and customer education officer at the family business.

“Dad began creating this seed library in the 1960s, about 20 years before he started Tainio Biologicals,” Tainio said. “We’re so happy his work will be saved and used in the future. It’s a treasure trove of genetic diversity in seeds.”

Over 1,000 seed varieties went to WSU’s Twin Vista Ranch in Nordland.

“We’ll grow many of these to see if they could be useful to farmers on the Olympic Peninsula, and then keep those as a seed bank for local farmers,” said Laura Lewis, director of WSU Jefferson County Extension.

Seed banks are backups for our food security, Lewis said. Keeping seeds from multiple variations of the same crop creates a source of different genetics. Genetic diversity is essential in case new pests or diseases emerge, or if new traits are preferred.

Bruce Tainio, wearing a lab coat., holding a bottle of brown liquid.
Bruce Tainio in the lab.

“Without seed banks and germplasm collections like this one from the Tainio family, we are left with little insurance against ecological, environmental, and economic threats to our food system,” Lewis said.

“It’s incredibly thoughtful, the way his family is donating this collection without any restrictions. It benefits both WSU and small farmers,” Lewis said. “Our mission is to make sure seed is publicly available without complications.”