Q: What is the difference between hybrid, heirloom and GMO seeds? I want to plant a garden but at a loss what kind of seeds to look for. ……………………………...Lily,T
A: The first step in planning your summer gardens is deciding what you are going to plant and which seeds to get. My first gardens were usually planted from seeds we saved the year before or if we wanted something new we just picked it out at the hardware store. Things have changed a lot (as most things do) and now when you walk through the aisle at Home Depot, Walgreens or your local nursery, the variety of seeds to choose from can be confusing. There are really only two kinds available for the hobbyist gardener, hybrid or heirloom.
Most seeds available today are hybrid seeds. These are simple F1 hybrids, first generation seeds cross pollinated and chosen to have specific natural properties, for instance resistant to bugs, producing in a shorter season, more prolific. If you plan to grow your garden from the seeds collected from the F1 plants the next year you will not get exactly the same properties. This is because they often revert back to the original uncrossed parents genes, so although the plant will be perfectly healthy, it may not have the prolific habit or be resistant to bugs, etc. An interesting sidelight for hybrid seeds, only the European growers cross plants to find the best tasting ones. US growers seem to have missed the point. I thought it was my imagination that home grown garden tomatoes used to taste a lot better, but now I know why.
Heirloom seeds are generally a little more expensive and theoretically have not been crossed for at least 5 generations. They are generally open pollinators, meaning the birds, bees and wind are assisting in the reproduction. Each growing season the best varieties are saved and used again for the next growing season. One of the good things about Heirloom seeds is their reliability, year after year. You can save the seeds and use them to produce exactly the same plant the following year. So if you chose a flavorful Russian heirloom tomato like Black Krim or Black Prince, you would get a richer, more flavorful tomato sauce than any hybrid available.
There is a drawback in heirloom plants, they bruise more easily, can’t be stored for long periods of time and are generally less prolific.
My recommendation would be to combine the reliability of hybrid seeds with the quality of heirloom seeds, choosing whichever meets your gardening needs.
As far as genetically modified seeds go, they are only available to large growers and they are used to make the food we eat everyday. When a package says, “non GMO” it does not certify that the seeds are not modified, it only says they don’t sell the seeds to the public. I stay away from the GMO seeds and food whenever possible. To me there is something really creepy about using dna from an animal to change the genetic structure of a plant. Like hybrid seeds, the GMO seeds cannot be saved to replant the following year. Thus growers are forced to rebuy the seeds every year. And the vicious cycle continues, it’s final impact still unknown.
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- Wednesday, 18 April 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Ask Madalyn