Team Heirloom or Team Hybrid?: Heirlooms are hybrids

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Team Heirloom or Team Hybrid?

By Trish
February 26, 2012

When buying or planting your vegetable seeds, do you favor hybrids or heirlooms? Let's discuss!

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Name: Kathleen Tenpas
Wickwire Corners NY (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! The WITWIT Badge Raises cows Region: New York Farmer
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Kathleen
Feb 26, 2012 10:12 AM CST
To be honest, there are very few vegetables available that are not hybrids. All corn and tomatoes available today are the product of hybridization, the original species being very far from what we are accustomed to. The fact that heirlooms breed true does not make them non-hybrids,but rather just very successful hybrids. Hybridization has been practiced from the beginning of humankind's first adventure in to agriculture. It is just in the last couple of decades that the misunderstanding between natural methods of hybridization and the more radical genetic manipulation has made the term hybrid a dirty word.

That said, I grow both. : )

Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Region: Texas Master Gardener: Texas Permaculture Raises cows I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
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dave
Feb 26, 2012 1:00 PM CST

Garden.org Admin

I'm thinking by "hybrids", Trish is meaning the F1 hybrids.
Name: Brian
Ontario Canada (Zone 5b)
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bearsearch
Feb 28, 2012 1:05 PM CST
I agree with Kathleen. Heirlooms are hybrids, they would not be found growing wild as a native species. What matters most is wether the seed is natural or a genetic monstrosity created in a lab.
Name: Kathleen Tenpas
Wickwire Corners NY (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! The WITWIT Badge Raises cows Region: New York Farmer
Garden Ideas: Level 1
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Kathleen
Feb 28, 2012 3:07 PM CST
The question, of course, is more about open pollination than anything else. But what must be stressed is that hybridization isn't a bad thing, and questions like this (with apologies and all respect to Trish) let the misunderstanding about hybridization continue. There are a lot of people who don't know the difference between hybrids, including F1 hybrids, and GMOs.

F1 hybrids are plants that grow from seeds created by blending two pure strains, each with at least one desirable trait. The resulting offspring will have the desirable traits from both parents, making it a better plant in some ways. The drawback is that when openly pollinated, this plant will not necessarily breed true. While this is done to make some produce more user friendly for commercial growers, it is also done for home gardeners to develop both flowers and vegetables with unusual colors and enhanced flavors.

Heirlooms are plants that will reliably reproduce themselves when openly pollinated. They are not (generally) the original species, but rather hybrids that retain their traits when openly pollinated.

GMOs are plants whose genome has been altered by geneticists by splicing in the genes from other species or altering the genes to resist herbicides, for instance. One well known example would be carrot genes spliced into the rice genome to increase its nutritional value. Another is. of course, Round-Up ready corn and soybeans which have been made resistant to the killing power of Round-Up.

Personally, I find GMOs disturbing. Their general use has been pushed beyond the testing done on them and the consequences are being discovered as afterthoughts.

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