I would like to try to clear up some confusion over definitions here. The basic division in plant types is 'hybrid' and 'open pollinated'. Open pollinated plants reproduce 'true to type' without special pollination procedures. Open pollinated varieties are best for saving seeds because the characteristics of the offspring are predictably similar to the parent plants. Hybrid varieties are crosses of two or more specific open pollinated varieties, accomplished by hand-pollinating plants with pollen from the appropriate parents. This is done to breed in desirable qualities of the parent strains. Seed saved from hybrids are often sterile (like a mule), and in any case the performance is unpredictable. Vegetative propagation of plants, such as potato eyes, root divisions, rooted cuttings, etc. will produce clones of the parent plant, and so can be reliably used with hybrid varieties.
Offered by George.
Mother Earth News, Sep/Oct 1987
Bring new pleasures and superior plants to your garden
By Nancy Bubel
What kinds of seeds should you collect? Eliminate hybrid plants right off the bat. Hybrids are created from two different parents in a special selective (and often intricately mechanical) process unlikely to be duplicated in natural random fertilization. Plants grown from the seeds they produce will not duplicate the good qualities of the original specimens and may, in fact, be greatly inferior. Except for some frankly experimental ventures, seed savers work with open pollinated (also called standard) varieties. These can be bred true to form by naturally occurring pollination.
I've been looking for some information on collecting and managing seed in the garden and found an excellent Article that describes the issues associated with Hybrid species and Cross Pollination and the importance of heirloom, non-hybrid plant varieties for your vegetable garden. There are also some text references at the end of the article, a review of one yielded this critical piece of information:
We have seen the rise of hybrid crops in the years since World War II. They are good for the seed business because the grower can't just let a few plants grow to seed, save the seed, then plant that seed next season. Hybridized plants don't yield seed that's true to the character of the plant, so the grower has to return to the seed rack year after year. Buying seed on a commercial level is a big deal, as is growing enough of it to meet the market. A lot of tillable land in South America isn't growing food for hungry South Americans, but growing corn seed for American farmers, and the biggest use of corn in this country is animal feed. Not many hungry South Americans get to eat corn-fed American beef and pork. In one sense, he who controls seed controls food. Or, he who owns seed owns food, and the highest bidder takes all.
Which kind of makes clear the importance of heirloom seed cultivation and management if you intend to complement your post-poleshift diet with vegetables. I had thought that it was possible to collect seed from commercial plant varieties. Just one more illusion shattered.
Offered by Gino.