The Importance of Open Pollinated Seeds

November 11th, 2011 BY jareds | No Comments
heirloom-tomatoes

No discussion of gardening would be complete without a discussion of the pros and cons of using open pollinated (OP) seeds. Many people, especially gardeners who are just getting started, don’t know a whole lot about the differences in seeds. Mostly this is because it’s not information that you just happen to come by during your day to day life, but it’s very important none the less.

First, what are open pollinated seeds? The short answer: they’re seeds that are produced by the natural cross-pollination of two parent plants. “Natural” cross-pollination simply means that the pollination occurred via wind, insect transport, or some other such natural means of genetic dispersal. The result? Well, that’s the important part of this whole thing.

See, open pollination results in viable next generation seeds. You grow a row of open pollinated plants, they exchange genetic material, seeds are formed, and those seeds will create yet more plants next growing season. It’s a beautiful cycle that means you’ll never have to buy seeds again if you pay attention to how you propagate your plants.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have your F1 hybrid seeds. These hybrid seeds are the product of two distinctly different parent plants being bred artificially to produce uniform offspring. While there are definitely some interesting features you can get out of these hybrids, there are some definite drawbacks that all gardeners should be aware of. The biggest of these issues is that F1 hybrids are often sterile and will not produce viable seeds for next year’s harvest. Also, the lack of genetic diversity in the seeds causes them to mature at a very uniform rate. While this might sound appealing, it creates an issue with a small-scale garden by causing either feast or famine with harvests. It’s easy for gardeners to feel overwhelmed with how much is ready to harvest all at once, and this can sometimes lead to waste.

No matter what you decide to plant in your garden, it’s important to have the necessary information to make informed choices. As more and more people are deciding to take on the daunting task of becoming backyard farmers, this information is becoming more and more important by the day.