Before the late 1800’s, there weren’t any standards or laws overseeing the seed trade. This allowed individuals to take advantage of the unorganized seed market by selling low quality seed to buyers. In some instances, what was sold wasn’t even seed at all.
Unfortunately, even the most seasoned seed buyers can’t always tell what they will get when purchasing seed. Will the seed grow? If it does grow, what will it grow into? Will these seeds contain a disease that will hurt my other crops? Will the packet contain other unwanted weeds that will reduce my yield, hurt my animals, or destroy my land? The worst part is that the outcome of your purchase won’t be known for months after you buy and “try” to grow them. In the late 1800’s, these questions asked by millions of people around the world led to the rapid development of laboratories tasked with using science to predict seed quality.