Hybrid or open-pollinated… big decision for farmers

So, for those of you like myself who are not so much into farming and/or unfamiliar with some technical jargons, I have taken the liberty to explain my understanding of these two terms:

“Open-pollinated seeds” are seeds that are produced by the parent plant and self-pollinate over and over again; and “hybrid seeds”, which are seeds that are produced by cross-pollinated plants- not identical to the parent plant.

With that out the way, let’s talk about one farm supply company’s choice for their customers.

There is no doubt that farmers would much rather do without the many plant diseases which often claim their hard earned investment- their crops.

It is for this reason St. Jago Farm Supplies made the decision to seek a hybrid seed supplier- breaking away from the open-pollinated seed supplier they started out with, according to Kaye-Ann Johnson, Retail Store Manager. “We started buying seeds that were already in Jamaica, but we decided to look to a new supplier and give us what we felt our customers needed not just what was available,” she shared as she gave a brief history of the buying habit of the company.

In 1988 they started getting open-pollinated tomato seeds from an overseas supplier, but even with a regular supply they observed that there were various issues with vegetation production.

It was then that Managing Director of the company, O’Brien Johnson decided that the best thing to do is to work with a seed that is more resistant to diseases and other crop issues in an affordable manner–  hybrid tomatoes- as at the time they were battling the onset of the Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus (TYLCV), popularly known as the Jheri Curl virus, .

After going through several varieties of hybrid production such as Tropical Glory, Striker and Summer Star- which was a big seller and is now being phased out- they are now launching Joy this year which is an improvement on the other plant breeds.

According to Ms. Johnson, they started offering it to customers as early as last year and she describes it as “excellent commercial tomato”.

However, despite the number of benefits derived from using hybrid seeds, Johnson said some Jamaicans are still under the spell of misconception that hybrid is unhealthy and would rather use pollinated, which in her opinion, leaves the farmers’ crops more susceptible to diseases.

What is causing many to be cautious about hybrid is that they are confusing it with genetically modified plants- a process which is completely different from hybrid pollination.

Genetically modified plants are those with their DNA altered in a way that does not occur naturally/ by natural recombination.

She highlighted that there is a big difference- the hybrid plant is created when plant breeders intentionally cross-pollinate two different varieties of a plant seed aiming to produce an offspring that contains the best traits of each of the parents. Basically, according to Johnson, this method is taking the ‘best behaving ones’ to plant.

It is not a cheap investment, and that’s why seeds are sold in small portions to make it more affordable for farmers.

She also outlined, below, some pros and cons of both type of seeds – it’s your decision!

HYBRID

Advantages:

  • Hybrids can  have up to 25 percent higher yield.
  • Hybrid plants are physically uniform. This is advantageous for farmers who harvest with machines, but it’s usually not a big deal for small-greenhouse gardeners.
  • Hybrids often show greater vigor and faster growth.

Disadvantages:

  • Hybrids cost up to five times more because they take longer to develop
  • They often require a more exacting horticulture. When things aren’t optimum, they may suffer more than plants grown from open-pollinated seeds.
  • If you save and grow seeds from a hybrid plant, don’t expect a similar plant in the next generation. The resulting plants in the second generation are usually much lower yielding, have less vigor, and are quite variable in their physical characteristics.

OPEN-POLLINATED

Advantages

  • It maintains the parental characters or purity of the breed indefinitely.
  • Self-pollination is used to maintain pure lines for hybridization experiments.
  • The plant does not need to produce large number of pollen grains.
  • Flowers do not develop devices for attracting insect pollinators.
  • It ensures seed production. Rather it is used as a fail-safe device for cross-pollinated.
  • Self-pollination eliminates some bad recessive characters.

Disadvantages

  • New useful characters are seldom introduced.
  • Vigour and vitality of the breed decrease with prolonged self-pollination.
  • Immunity to diseases decreases.
  • Variability and hence adaptability to changed environment are reduced.

 

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Cecelia Campbell- Livingston - Contributor
Cecelia Campbell-Livingston has over 20 years of journalism experience. Her career started as a writer for the now defunct Jamaica Record, before moving on to The Jamaica Herald/XNews. Later, she served as Coordinator for the teen publication, Teen Herald. In 2008 she joined the staff of the Jamaica Observer as an entertainment writer. Since December 2014, she has been the Clarendon correspondent for the Jamaica Gleaner.

The views expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of JAMPRO

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