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News / Life / Clark County Life

Gardening with Allen: Hybrid plants have advantages

By Allen Wilson
Published: December 4, 2021, 6:03am

My organic gardening friend told me I should only use organic varieties of flowers and vegetables. She said that heirloom varieties grown from collected seeds are better than hybrids and other artificially developed varieties. What varieties do you use?

Organic refers to how flowers and vegetables are grown in the field or garden and not how they are developed. Hybrid and other newly developed varieties could be considered organic if the seed or plants were grown using organic methods, which include using organic fertilizers and not using chemical pesticides.

Heirloom plant varieties are passed down from generation to generation. The identity of the original person who selected and named them has been lost in most cases. More recently selected or bred varieties can be traced to the original owner. The hybrid method of variety development has been employed for three main reasons:

  • Hybrid varieties are inherently more vigorous than those grown by open pollination.
  • Hybrid varieties are more uniform from plant to plant than those that are open pollinated.
  • The original developer maintains exclusive control of production of the hybrid variety. It is only normal for those who spend time and money developing a new variety to want to have controlled production and monetary return from their efforts.

The vigor and uniformity of hybrid varieties is an advantage to the gardener who plants them as well as the developer. I have planted hybrid varieties for many years and have been very satisfied with their performance.

I was employed for 10 years by a flower and vegetable seed company that developed new hybrid varieties. Our new varieties proved to be superior in both our own trials and those of others. I remember one particular cross between two parents of different colors that resulted in a new color only be obtained by that specific cross.

The development of tissue culture propagation or multiplication has had dramatic effects on ornamental plant breeding. Now crosses can be made without concern for uniformity of seed production. A single improved plant can be increased to hundreds of thousands using tissue culture.

Since gardeners prefer to buy started plants rather than seeds for ornamental plants, it does not matter whether the plant was grown from seed or tissue culture. This has reduced the amount of time needed to develop new varieties. The plant patent process can be used to maintain the originator’s control of a new variety.

So I don’t pay any attention to how a new plant variety was developed. I grow it based solely on how it performs in my garden. I still grow a few heirloom varieties because they have unique qualities that I appreciate.

Allen Wilson is a Vancouver gardening specialist. allenw98663@yahoo.com