Purchasing Non-Hybrid Seeds

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I was told by a guy in my local nursery that if the seeds do not specify "hybrid" then they are "non-hybrid". Is this reliable info? How to tell if you are, indeed, buying "non-hybrid" seeds?

-- NSmith (nitnat3@aol.com), July 14, 1999


Hi N:

Your nursery guy was correct. Hybrid seed must (by law) state that it is hybrid.....although sometimes they will fudge and state only "F-1". F-1 means "first generation cross", and the plants are indeed hybrids, but not very complex ones! F-1 plants that go to seed will be fertile, but you won't know what kind of production you will get from them.

F-1 tomatoes, for instance, are often crosses of "cherry"-types and larger type. The breeder might have found that such plants had better flavor, greater hardiness, or earlier production than either parent plant. Seeds produced from these hybrids will resemble one or the other of the parents -- you've probably already seen these in your garden, when a "volunteer" cherry tomato just showed up one spring.

Anita Evangelista

-- Anita Evangelista (ale@townsqr.com), July 14, 1999.


What Anita said is essentially true [if you are buying from a seed company and not someone on the street corner]. I don't really understand this push for non-hybrids. I grow a large number but they are chosen for quality reasons; not because I want to save the seeds. Hybrids, in general, will do better. Let's take the tomato. I am still planting 10 y old seeds of hybrids with 100% germination [need to because they quit producing a very high quality hybrid]. Now if you think seeds won't be available for 10 y, then non-hybrids would be essential, if you want to grow the tomato.This is true for all seeds that store well. Legumes don't store that well, but they are mostly non-hybrid

-- Z1X4Y7 (Z1X4Y7@aol.com), July 14, 1999.

A lot of the old standard vegetable crops are hybrids which have been around so long that they come true from seed and are perfectly ok to save and plant. Examples are Detroit Red beets, Rutgers Tomatoes, Black Beauty Eggplant, and Lucullus chard. Corn is more problematic as all commercial varieties are new hybrids and even the old ones may be unstable. There are hybrid wheats, but they will likley be fine to save and plant. Squashes, cucumbers, and peppers interbreed so freely that it will be difficult to grow them and save the seeds; unless you grow just one pepper and one cucurbit. I find the y2k "non-hybrid" seed obsession to be overdone, but then I'm lucky to have spent my career in horticulture. Frankly, in spite of this, I am very concerned about my ability to grow food for the six in the family and save and store seed for future gardens. I also know wild foods pretty well and realize there is no guarantee of abundance there either.

-- Sand Mueller (smueller@azalea.net), July 14, 1999.

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