Navigating the Terminology Jungle of Seed Types
What is a Landrace seed variety?
A landrace seed variety is a genetically diverse variety of plants that have been present in an area long enough to have naturally adapted traits to help them thrive in the local ecological and climatic conditions. Landrace varieties are crucial for maintaining good genetics in plant species and are often the target of seed-saving and gene bank projects to keep crop types healthy and genetically diverse. As far as global food security goes, the conservation of landrace varieties is super important! The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure backup facility for the world’s crop diversity on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago. The Seed Vault provides long-term storage of duplicates of seeds conserved in gene banks around the world. This provides security of the world’s food supply against the loss of seeds in gene banks due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts, war, sabotage, disease and natural disasters.
What is an Heirloom seed variety?
Heirloom seed varieties are plants that have been open-pollinated and can have their lineage traced back for decades. They are primarily chosen for their superior flavour and culinary uses. Sometimes developed by plant breeders, but often just the lovely outcome of keen farmers and gardeners saving seed over time. You could never get bored experimenting with heirlooms, there are countless varieties to choose from, with many having interesting regionally stories from around the world.
What is a Hybrid seed variety?
Hybrid seeds are varieties that have been bred for their resistance to diseases. Since the dominate form of agriculture has moved to monoculture farming, pests and diseases have the ability to desolate crops. Having the same crop covering huge areas of land can make crops especially susceptible to pests, causing the population of pests to boom or making the spread of disease very easy. To combat this farmers started crossing varieties of vegetables to create ones that were more resistant to diseases. One often unintentional outcome through the breeding process is that the quality of flavour of that variety can be lessened and the hybrid fruit often do not bear viable seed or seed that is true to the parent plant. Hybrid plants are in contrast to open pollinated plants, which are described below.
What do we mean when we seed our seeds are Open Pollinated?
Open pollinated means the flowers of that plant are fertilized by natural means, either by pollinators like bees, moths, birds and ants or by wind. The seed that forms produces the same plant type as the parent the following year. Open pollinated seed are also genetically diverse, so there can be a lot of variation in the plants and fruits. Since agriculture began about 12,000 years ago, people have been choosing the qualities they like in a plant, such as fruit size, flavor, growth habit, heat and cold tolerance, and uniformity, saved the seed, and continually grew it out year after year. This is plant selection and can only be done with open pollinated seed. Open pollinated seed are in contrast to hydrid seed- which can be more unpredictable. Hybrid seeds are made by manual cross pollination of plants. This should not be confused with genetic engineering or GMOs, which involved the insertion of new genetic material. Hybrids are bred to increase specific characteristics of the plants they create. Hybrids are made to produce higher yields, create greater uniformity, improved color, increased disease resistance, and more. Hybrid seeds cannot be saved with any assurance of regularity. The seed from the first generation of hybrid plants does not produce true copies reliably, so new seeds must be purchased for each planting.
Determinate vs. Indeterminate Growth
Determinate growth plants will have their vegetative parts growing until the first flowers on the plant bloom and then the plant changes gears to start producing flowers and fruit, no longer putting energy into growing the main stem of the plant. Determinate plants tend to be bushier in stature and produce all of their fruits around the same time, providing most of your harvest around the same time.
Indeterminate growth plants continue to grow their primary stem throughout the entire growing season. Because of this, indeterminate plants can grow very tall and the timing of their harvests are spread out. As the primary stem continues to grow it continuously puts out flowers and fruits, this makes for a very extended and prolific growing season for the plants. If you are growing indeterminate plants make sure that you have lots of space and trellis plans or provide other supports.