Best of Breed — Rupp Seed Company

Student Activity based on the article “Best of Breed” from the May/June 2012 Our Ohio magazine.

Ohio Science Academic Content Standards
(Life Science Model Curriculum: Grade 8) In this student activity, students will explore the concept that “reproduction is necessary for the continuation of every species. Every organism alive today comes from a long line of ancestors who reproduced successfully every generation. Reproduction is the transfer of genetic information from one generation to the next. The ability to reproduce defines living things.”  Students will discuss this concept while reading about genetic breeding of vegetable seeds. (Explanation and key terms are from the Grades P-8 Science Model Curriculum 030111.pdf.)

Rupp Seed Company Thrives through the Years
Discussion points
o    Ask students to read the article “Best of Breed” found in Our Ohio magazine or online.
o    When you hear “new seed varieties,” what comes to mind?
o    While perusing food in the fresh food department, do you think about what farm this food comes from or what kind of seed is used to grow the food?
o    Are we eating the same varieties / types of food our grandparents ate 40 years ago?  Explain.  How has our food changed?  Should it have changed?  Who or what causes it to change?
o    In order for plants to survive, they have to adapt to their environment. What about the environment changes thus causing plants to adapt?
o    The article begins by listing different varieties of squash and pumpkin seeds sold by Rupp Seed Company.  What do you think are the unique traits of the following varieties? (Hint: go to the website to see pictures.)
o    Sun Spot Buttercup
o    Gold Rush
o    WeeeeeOne
o    Celebration
o    Table Star
o    Rupp’s trial fields have 200 sweet corn varieties.  Why do you think there are so many?  One variety reduces the need for insecticide. Define insecticide. Is this a good adaption do you think?
o    Plant seeds are bred for a variety of reasons, like lessening the need for insecticide. What other environmental situations can plants be bred for?
o    Rupp Seed Company is “independent.” Why is that special? Other companies are defined how?
o    Rupp started out in 1946 selling soybeans and then developed one of the first branded seed products.  This led to a partnership with a national seed company for distribution. Define distribution.
o    Research and plant breeding became part of the company in the 1970s.  Explain what this meant for the business.  How was it changing?  What do you think plant breeding involves?
o    Why was producing vegetable seed a good business decision according to Roger Rupp?
o    What market did Rupp Seeds decide to target with their vegetable seeds? Was that a good choice? (i.e. Who were the customers buying Rupp vegetable seed?)
o    Does Rupp Seed Company sell only in Ohio?  Explain.  How do they sell to other markets?

New Varieties
o    The article states that the success of the seed company is due to its research and breeding program.  What does it mean to have the newest and best genetics?
o   List the improvements in new seed compared to old seed varieties.
o    Define:  crop yield, maturity rates and marketability
o    How does Rupp Seed Company make sure that its seed is indeed better than other varieties?  What tests do they do on their seed?
o    What is a breeding program for seed?

Seed Success
o    In 2000, Duane Bell was hired as the plant breeder for Rupp Seed.  According to the article, has this been a successful program?
o    What are the crops that have been improved in the breeding program?
o    Define edamame beans.  Why are they important to the food industry?
o    Define agritainment.  Where would you find agritainment?
o    Because of the markets that want certain types of vegetables, of what is the Rupp Seed Company the world’s largest distributor?
o    What does Roger Rupp look forward to in the world of seed production?

Hands on at Home or School
o    Explore the Rupp Seed Company website.
o    Look at the multitude of varieties for each plant, click on the variety to see a picture and compare the picture with its name.
o    Do you think “Autumn Gold” pumpkins might be related to “Early Autumn” or “Big Autumn?”  What do they all have in common? Read the description on the website to find out!
o    Draw a timeline of the development of Rupp Seed Company beginning with its founding in 1946. Explain the important developments of the company from 1946 to the present.
o    Read the special section of the article titled “How Breeding Works.”

o    Write or draw the general steps of breeding plant seed.
Crossing two ______________ varieties.
Extract the desired ____________ from another plant and apply it to a ______________________ pistil.
Grow the plants to produce the desired hybrid.
Replant, self-pollinate and select to create a _____________ hybrid.
Repeat, how many times?
Produce enough seed to _________________ customers.
Custom treat the seed for _______________________.

o    Could you work as a plant breeder?  What kind of education would you need for this career choice?
o    What experience would you need to run a seed company?
o    If you visited Rupp Seeds, what work would you see being done?
o    If you were able to develop and name your own hybrid of pumpkin, what would it look like? What would you name it?  (Browse the different variety names at the Rupp website!)
o    Where do you buy seeds for your vegetable garden?
o    Growing vegetables in your back yard or in containers is easy and fun. Now, (April) is a great time to germinate vegetables in your window and then when it warms up in a few weeks (May), transplant the new seedlings out side.
o    Study your plants. See if you can identify the parts of the flowers for pollination this summer. Could you be a backyard breeder?
o    Go to the Teachers section at to find some great articles and information about vegetables.
o    Ohio State University Extension publishes excellent information for those wanting to know more about vegetable growing.

o    Using a map of Ohio located at the Ohio Department of Transportation, or your own map, locate:
o    Wauseon, Ohio
o    Wauseon, Ohio is located in the heart of Ohio’s vegetable producing land.  Is this an appropriate location for this company?

This student activity was prepared by Camille Kopczewski, who is coordinator of religious education at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Grove City. She is a former sixth grade social studies teacher for South-Western City Schools. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees in education.