Whats the difference between Open Pollinated, Hybrid and Heirloom?
Taken from the ASC Magazine August Edition 2013
Tom introduced a discussion detailing characteristics of hybrid seeds. As we all consider varieties for the season, it is common to wonder about the difference between hybrid and open-pollinated varieties when choosing varieties that are right for you. First, let’s make sure we’re all speaking the same language.
Are those, which if properly isolated from other varieties in the same plant species, will produce seed that is genetically “true to type.” This means that the seed will result in a plant very similar to the parent. Beginning in the early 1900s, plant breeders worked to develop new open-pollinated varieties, using techniques to create a more pure, and thus uniform, genetic line.
Are named open-pollinated strains which either pre-date or are unaltered by the earliest open-pollinated breeding work. If open-pollinated varieties are allowed to cross within the same species, the resulting seed will be a hybrid.
The modern era of plant breeding started when biologists rediscovered Gregor Mendel’s study of genetics. By the 1930s, many hybrid sweet corn varieties were available in the US.
In commercial seed production, hybrids come from the careful and deliberate crossing of two different parent varieties, each with traits desired for the offspring. Seed from a hybrid variety can be saved, but will not be true to type.
At High Mowing Organic Seeds, we are of the opinion that both open-pollinated and hybrid varieties deserve a seat at the table. As discussed below, each has its benefits:
The Benefits of Open-Pollinated Varieties
Save your seed: The most obvious benefit to using open-pollinated seeds is the option to produce one’s own seed supply. Some crops, including beans, peas, tomatoes, and lettuce, are self-pollinating, and thus do not even require much isolation for seed saving. Furthermore, by selecting the best plants from which to save seed, anyone can adapt specific variety strains to their region or microclimate.
Less Costly: For a number of reasons, open-pollinated seeds are invariably less expensive than hybrid varieties. For every hybrid, there are actually two distinct lines of genetics that must be maintained, not to mention the careful task of production, which can get quite costly.
Flavor: Few can ignore the superior flavor of many open-pollinated varieties. Many breeders who specialize in creating hybrid varieties for large-scale commercial growers tend to focus on qualities other than flavor, such as storage ability, uniformity, and characteristics more pertinent to processing. Suffice it to say that since the onset of modern hybrid plant breeding, flavor has not been a priority.
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