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Seeds; Open pollinating, hybrid and GMO  RSS feed

 
Scott Foster
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I'm learning on the fly when it comes to gardening.  Up to this point, I've planted stuff at the wrong time, in the wrong place, and etc.    Just found some radishes in a hugel bed that are the size of a baseball.  I didn't know they were there.

It's time to get loosely organized :)

My first step is to research seeds.  I would like to plant only Heirloom/landrace and/ or open-pollinated seeds.  (This may be redundant)  I'm not sure what the differences are between heirloom, landrace and open pollination.


On another note are these the differences between heirloom, hybrid, and GMO? 

Heirloom type seeds will have offspring that are pretty much identical to the parents, as long as you keep them separated from other pollinators outside the strain.  Theoretically, one could pass heirloom seeds down hundreds of years. 

Hybrid seeds will produce the first year and then there will be no rhyme or reason to what the offspring will look or taste like ( from second-generation seeds).  These seeds you would have to purchase every year to get the same plant.

GMO's have been altered at the gene level by manipulation and often contain genes from another organism like a bacteria, bug or a fish.   I see no reason to ever plant these.


With all that said, if I plant a nice variety of heirloom corn or beans, how do I keep those plants from cross-pollinating with the farmers GMO or Hybrid corn down the street?     

 
Gilbert Fritz
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You are more or less right. The only thing I'd add is that you left out open pollenated. OP seeds fit your definition of heirloom, but they are of recent origin. Heirlooms are all OP, but they are also old; not all OPs are heirloom. Heirloom is actually a rather vague and not particularly useful concept, except to those who market seeds, since nobody agrees on how old a strain has to be to count.

And, hybrid seeds are well worth saving in many cases; the variation can produce a plant you like better then the original.

Finally, the only plants for which you have to worry about GMOs crossing into your crops are beets, corn, and canola. And you don't have to worry about being sold GMO vegetable seeds, at least at present.

Crossing with hybrids can be prevented by distance; for beans, a few hundred feet is more the sufficient. Every plant has a different recommended distance, which won't guarantee that they won't cross, but will make it unlikely. So long as the crosses are not between such items as hot and sweet peppers, or bitter gourds and zucchini, and you don't plan to sell seeds, I wouldn't worry too much about crossing.
 
Jarret Hynd
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Location: Sask, Canada - Zone 3b
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I think you nailed the descriptions pretty well. Just a point I'll make is our own Joseph Lofthouse has talked about getting good varieties that originate either from store produce or hybrid varieties. So it's not like they are bad perse, but to plant large areas with them certainly are a heavy yearly cost, which makes it hard to be profitable with them on a smaller scale.

Scott Foster wrote:With all that said, if I plant a nice variety of heirloom corn or beans, how do I keep those plants from cross-pollinating with the farmers GMO or Hybrid corn down the street?


I could be wrong, but from what I recall there isn't anything you can do with corn except move away - the pollen travels half a mile. This is assuming you are right next to a field though.

Just my observation around here, but since corn is already an en mass cultivated product, so they usually are not worth the investment - then again I am in canada . A good heirloom bean is nice to have though.

Scott Foster wrote:I'm not sure what the differences are between heirloom, landrace and open pollination.


LandRaces are seeds that are adjusted to your specific area. I can buy heirloom(or hybrid I guess) beans from B.C or Ontario, but they usually have poor results because the climate is completely different here than what they were grown in. I might get 10% which survive the first year in a S.T.U.N scenario. Then the 2nd year using the seed from the first year these plants get better adapted and survival rates improve. Eventually 5-10 years down the road you create your version of the bean which thrives in the environment in your area.

Hybrids plants are breed in a controlled way to get predictable traits. Hybrids are bit mono-culturey that way I feel. Open-pollinated is a bit like entropy, as everything is getting mixed together, and you don't know what you'll get. Just save seed from the plants that have the traits you want and things will be good
 
Scott Foster
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:You are more or less right. The only thing I'd add is that you left out open pollenated. OP seeds fit your definition of heirloom, but they are of recent origin. Heirlooms are all OP, but they are also old; not all OPs are heirloom. Heirloom is actually a rather vague and not particularly useful concept, except to those who market seeds, since nobody agrees on how old a strain has to be to count.


Thank You Gilbert!  Great clarification, I was reading about some of the Mennonite and Amish seeds for tomatoes and wondered what exactly made them "heirloom."  I guess it's because they have planted the same seeds for generations.  The definition is subjective but kind of lets you know, in some cases, that the seeds have a history.

I'm glad to hear that you can experiment with hybrid seeds.  I squashed a bunch of hybrid tomatoes this year and threw them around the garden.  I was nervous about that after reading, now I'm not.  One can start creating types of tomatoes by open pollinating and selecting the seeds to harvest.













 
Scott Foster
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Jarret Hynd wrote:I think you nailed the descriptions pretty well. Just a point I'll make is our own Joseph Lofthouse has talked about getting good varieties that originate either from store produce or hybrid varieties. So it's not like they are bad perse, but to plant large areas with them certainly are a heavy yearly cost, which makes it hard to be profitable with them on a smaller scale.



Thanks, Joseph.  I plan on getting some Joseph Lofthouse seed for corn and beans. 

I read an article he wrote about a new corn he planted being devoured by skunks.  He just kept planting what survived, and ended up with a skunk-proof corn.  I.E., the corn had traits that could withstand the onslaught, taller stocks and etc.

This is all starting to make sense to me now.  Recently read an article about Indian farmers...the big AG companies went in and gave seed away for free (wink, wink) and most of the farmers lost their land because they couldn't afford the pesticides, herbicides and the new seed the next year.  I didn't really get it.  I do now.    It's kind of crazy...farmers created super strains of corn that did well in their area and then switched to a seed that you are forced to use all the chemicals with.  Crazy.


 
Skandi Rogers
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If you have GMO corn near you and you want to grow your own and save seeds without GMO, you can do it but it's going to be a lot of work. You'll need to cover your female flowers (just the ones you want to save for seed)  from just before they open until the tassels turn brown, and hand pollinate them with your own male flowers. Only you can decide if it's worth the effort or not, or if you need to do it at all!
 
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