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I am drinking my morning herbal tea, a vivid purple infusion of black currant and mint, looking out of the window and enjoying the view of the amazing winter in Tallinn. The weather is sunny, yet it can be deceptive, it is also -9˚C and snowing. Snowfall and sunshine – are two things whose simultaneous existence is a rarity. Tiny glittering snowflakes, like diamonds of nature.
In different shapes, sizes, and colors, plant seeds represent another type of treasure. Seeds are a source of life, containing everything a sprouting young plant needs. As different as snowflakes, seeds can be categorized in many ways. Today I would like to briefly discuss the differences between the heirloom, F1 Type hybrid, and open-pollinated seeds.
Open-pollinated plant seeds are produced via natural pollination mechanisms (wind, water, or animal activity) resulting in plants with very similar and naturally varying traits. Cross-pollination occurs between two plants from the same variety.
Self-pollination happens between two flowers of the same plant or between different parts of the same flower. Farmers, gardeners, and botanists select the seeds from plants with beneficial and desirable traits.
These seeds have been passed down for generations throughout agricultural history. These selected and preserved old seed lineages are called heirloom seeds. Many growers are making a great effort to save and reintroduce old heirloom varieties.
However, not all open-pollinated seeds are heirloom seeds. Open-pollination can occur between different plant varieties or even species as well. Hybridization is a natural process that may result in a plant with a new set of traits – a hybrid. Humans have been using hybridization in their favor to produce plants with specific traits. This process takes place in a controlled environment and is time-consuming. The first step is to breed the true parental varieties – the plants with desirable traits – which can take years. The next step is to produce the hybrid via cross-pollination between parental varieties in a controlled environment to ensure desired results. The first cross between true pure breed parental varieties is called F1 type hybrid. F1-type hybrids usually show the amplified versions of the desired traits. These traits fade or even cannot be seen in the next generation. Therefore, farmers and gardeners must buy new F1-type hybrid seeds from the breeder every season.
To use the seeds with a long history, lineages that have been serving local farmers and gardeners for generations, or to buy seeds with carefully produced characteristics to guarantee the success of the crop, is up to every grower – all diamonds are different.
Helery Harend was a senior botanist at Natufia. She has accepted to share with you her precious knowledge in Botanics, her practical experience of what can be done and what cannot be done in hydroponics, her many ‘tips’ to have plants growing better, healthier, and tastier, and the many properties and good use of those plants that grow in the Natufia Smart Garden. Great gardening and Bon Appetit!