Heirloom, Open-Pollinated and Hybrid Seeds

This is the time of year that many gardeners start planning their spring gardens. It can be helpful to know the difference between hybrid seeds and open pollinated(OP)/heirloom seeds.  The OP/ heirloom seeds  are the best choice if seeds from the plants will be saved and replanted the following year.  The fruit from OP/heirloom seeds often taste  better, but the plants may not have the disease resistance that hybrids do.  “Open pollinated” and “Heirloom” can be used synonymously, but the main difference is that heirloom seeds are designated by age: plants between 50-150 years old.

Commercial F1 hybrid varieties are popular, they have been created for better yields and improved disease resistence. The seed of hybrid fruits should not be saved. It will not grow true to form because the F1 hybrid seeds are produced by crossing two different parent varieties. Seed saved from hybrids will either be sterile or the plants of the next generation may show wide variation in characteristics, uniformity and maturity.

There is a place for both hybrid and OP/ heirloom seeds in the garden, and it is important to know the difference between them.  A good balance of these two in the garden will increase the dividends for DIY food producers.

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