Why I Only Plant Non-Hybrid Seeds

There are countless reasons to sing the praises of non-hybrid seeds. However the one that I can most simply and plainly name is this: survival. Yes, our survival depends on the preservation and usage of non-hybrid seeds to plant our food. Why? Well, essentially, as seed companies continue to over-hybridize seeds, they risk wiping out genetic seed diversity. It is through the use of diverse heirloom seeds that we preserve different qualities of fruits and vegetables. Truly, using only hybrid seeds can have catastrophic results. Here is an example:

Let’s say that all potato farmers in America are using an F1 hybrid (meaning it has been hand-pollinated to receive specific qualities) of potato seed. This potato seed has been created to grow large, firm potatoes that have a long storage life and resist rot. However, this advanced potato seed does not have the ability to fend off the “obscure” Colorado potato beetle. These large, convex, black and yellow colored beetles could then wipe out the entire country’s potato crop, systematically and quickly migrating from the Rocky Mountains, to Nebraska, Illinois, Ohio, then all the way to the coast of the Atlantic, chowing on potato plants all-the-live-long-day. There is nothing to stop them because they can simply hop from one plant to the next if all of the potato plants are exactly the same.

Does this sound far fetched? Well it’s not. This bug migratory pattern is exactly the path that the Colorado Potato Beetle took when it spread throughout the country between 1824 and 1874. It started out as an obscure insect, then made its way across the states, hopping from one plant to another. It even eventually made its way to Europe. Today, it is cited as a pest problem in all states such except for Florida, Nevada, and California. How is this relevant to hybrid and non-hybrid seeds? Because we simply must keep planting diverse types of potato seeds in order to interrupt the bugs’ migration. Additionally, we may quite easily find an heirloom potato variety that is not attractive to this pest. They may simply fly past rather than stopping to lay their eggs under a leaf.

Here is another good example. Let’s say that we are in Ireland, and the year is 1840. All of Ireland’s potato farmers have planted the same type of potato seed, because it is quite simply known as the best seed. They are counting on harvesting a bountiful crop, and of course counting on the potatoes to feed their families for the entire year. Instead, the potato crops are hit by blight. Not just some of the potato farmers are effected- all of them are. There is no potato harvest in 1840.

Now, if this one sounds far fetched, then second guess yourself! Because this is just what occurred during the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, which led to the death or displacement of 2 and a half million people! All of the farmers planted what they believed to be the best type of potato. But this potato did not have the qualities necessary to resist the blight. If the Irish farmers had planted several different types of heirloom potato seeds, it is likely that they would have had at least one type of potato crop that would resist the blight.

If you fear that your choices are limited when it comes to the selection of non-hybrid, open-pollinated heirloom seeds, don’t worry. You actually have a huge array of choices. For example, there is only a small handful of F1 hybrid apple seeds available, whereas there are a good 10,000 types of heirloom apples.

When selecting seeds, look for the words “heirloom” and “open pollinated.” By planting these seeds, you are helping to promote plant variance, and preserving these genetically diverse jewels.

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