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Choosing Hybrid or Heirloom Seeds

Whenever I buy seeds or someone gives me a pack of seeds, I would always ask whether these are hybrid seeds or heirloom seeds. The reason is because I would like to know whether these plants would give me generations of seeds or whether they’re only good for a single season. To put it in better perspective, heirlooms and hybrids are to be considered two different cultivars when it comes to fruit baring plants. Not because they produce different type of fruits but these two type of plants are genetically modified through either open and cross pollination for their purpose. Reproducing these two types of plants isn’t easy and one shouldn’t bother with planting seeds of the other if you aren’t sure what the outcome would be.

Hybrids are plants that are genetically engineered to produce certain crop characteristics. You may have already seen these types of fruits and leaf vegetables when you visited the grocery or market and noticed that tomatoes in a certain section all look plump in shape, vibrant in color, uniform in sizes and so on. They have the most appealing of characteristics and sizes that us humans would simply want to have on the dinner table. Most of these crops are used for processing into canned or bottled ingredients. This is the result of generations of cross pollination and selective plant production. The drawback to these seeds and plants is that most often, they can only produce uniform fruits or leaf crops in a single generation. Seeds from the fruits of these plants may not produce the same characteristics of its parent plant.

Heirlooms on the other hand are those that were grown since earlier periods and have kept their characteristics through open pollination. What this means is that as long as you keep seeds from these plants without trying to cross pollinate them with other cultivars (e.g. cherry tomato with beefsteak tomato) they will keep producing the same fruits and plant characteristics for many generations. This is one of the biggest advantages of heirloom seed collection and plant propagation. You get the same result each time as long as you follow the rules.

Hybrids and heirloom seeds have their pros and cons and every gardener should know the difference. Don’t bother planting seeds from a fruit born of a hybrid plant. Instead, seek to find heirlooms you can keep and collect seeds. But if you’re targeting a commercial market, hybrid seeds are better as they will have consistent and uniform fruits as long as you sustain your stash with new seeds to plant. Hybrid seeds are more expensive than heirlooms because selective pollination and experiment takes time.

So before you collect seeds or plant seeds from unknown cultivars, better make sure you’re planting the right crop or you might end up wasting time planting mediocre crops.

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