Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why hybrid seeds are better than heirloom...

I've got more dirty hippie credentials than anyone I know. But when it comes to seeds, almost without exception, I plant hybrids. The Times ran an article that I wish I'd written. Here's my favorite 'graph:
“A 1902 cabbage by Burpee was a perfectly good cabbage by 1902 standards,” Dr. Navazio said. “But the truth of the matter is, none of our ancestors ever viewed these things as done. You never stopped breeding your livestock. You never stopped selecting your cabbage.”
The article features prominently Johnnys Seeds, an outfit where I buy the majority of my seeds. Yeah, sure, I grow some nonhybrid lettuces and I think that Chioggia beets are the best varietal for Florida beets. But I'm always eager to plant a new hybrid. Even at twice the cost of "heirloom" seeds, they're worth it.

Read the article. Tell me what you think. 

1 comment:

Leon said...

IMHO, heirlooms vs. hybrids argument is kinda meaningless, so I'll leave it to “greener-than-thou gardeners”.

It really should be open pollination vs. controlled pollination (or cloning). Those old cars also had lots of good traits that the cars of nowadays have mostly lost (can you fix a Prius by the roadside with a hammer and a piece of wire or use firewood as a fuel? ) And since we don't know whether the speed, easy serviceability, fuel economy or something else will be the most important trait tomorrow, the only way to hedge is to have lots of diversity - just like the Mother Nature has always done.

Both open and controlled pollinated varieties have unique advantages over each other, so going completely one way and totally ignoring the other would be silly and dangerous. Let's have as many different varieties as possible – then there will always be something fit for a particular time, place and backyard. Except that IMHO GMO stuff should be kept off the fields until we know enough about it – the risk is just too great and if something does go wrong there is no way back.

Humans add another dimension to it, of course – hybrids are much easier to control and monopolize, and monopoly kills diversity and that's bad. That's not hybrid's fault but that certainly an argument for OP plants.

Also, if someone doesn't save their seeds (thus producing a new hybrid best suited for their purposes) - by all means, they can go for hybrids, they're not using main OP's advantages anyway.