October 1, 2010

Love open pollinated seeds

Open pollinated seeds are produced naturally using the ingenious mechanisms in nature for pollination: wind, water, insects and birds. Open pollination occurs with other compatible plants in the immediate area. The seeds tend to closely resemble their parents and are fairly close to the original plants in colour, size and height.

We love open pollination because this is how plants have been grown and evolved over time and how biodiversity is maintained. Of course we also love open pollinated seeds because they can be saved and replanted from year to year as growers have done for generations. There are also self pollinating untreated heirloom seeds like peas and beans and these are great too! The OP seeds grow well without having to use additional inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation. They adapt to their local environment, can be hardier and can have better flavour.

In order to preserve all traits of open pollinated plants, seed breeders recommend keeping distance or a buffer (such as a greenhouse) between varieties. Heirloom seeds and plants are the product of open pollination over generations. They are for the most part, not used in large scale agriculture.

Hybrid seeds differ from open pollinated seeds as they are the offspring of mixed parentage. Many hybrids are created by humans, whereas natural hybrids occur when plants that are closely related cross pollinate. Crossing two genetically distinct plants is done via controlled pollinating for example by commercial seed breeders. The offspring of genetically different parents is a new variety with specific traits from either/both parents. The seeds of many hybrid plants are infertile or they tend to not resemble the hybrid parent. The seeds of natural hybrid plants are often viable as they have learned to survive in a particular climate.

Most hybrid seeds are the product of commercial breeders and can require higher maintenance. They often require higher inputs and produce higher yields. These types of seeds have led to a cyclical dependence on higher cost inputs which has led in some instances to soil depletion and/or farmers becoming increasingly indebted. Most corn and sugar beets produced in the US are hybrid. It is possible to get non hybrid heirloom corn seed however.

F1 Hybrids come from two distinct plants that growers have cross mated. They are the first generation of plants cross pollinated in a controlled setting, and they can only be produced again by starting with the two distinct parent plants. Seed saved from F1 plants will not produce F1 hybrid seeds.

This is a guest post by Anna-Monique West, Seed Living

1 comment:

Pat said...

We been growing open pollinated heirloom tomatoes for years...still get cross pollination.
It dosen't stop hubby from growing many varieties every year.