Your Guide to Hybrid and Open-Pollinated Seeds

Posted on Friday, 8 January 2021 under Stories

Winter presents a prime opportunity for farmers to source their seeds for the next season. It may not be immediately clear what variety suits your growing needs but here are some points to guide your research.

Our Research and Education Seed Farm, located in Abbotsford BC, takes advantage of open-pollinated and hybrid seed types. We primarily grow open-pollinated plants because their seed saving capacity allows us to increase seed security and sovereignty in BC. Hybrid plants are often grown as part of our variety trials. These trials help farmers and gardeners determine what crop variety is best suited for their region.

hands holding a handful of seeds

Hybrid Seeds

The popularization of hybrid seeds has allowed growers to quickly improve yields and certain traits in many crops. Hybrid seeds are the result of a highly controlled inbreeding process that results in a uniform population. Plant breeders perform a series of test crosses with a number of parent lines to determine which offspring, or F1 generation, has the best qualities. This generation outperforms its parents and may experience beneficial characteristics such as higher yields, increased disease resistance, or earlier maturation. Hybrid seeds are popular in monocultures because their consistency allows for the use of big machinery.

Hybrid plants increase farmers’ reliance on seed companies and therefore are subject to changes in prices and discontinuations. These varieties can also lead to a loss of diversity if open-pollinated varieties are not maintained. Additionally, hybrid seeds tend to be more expensive in comparison to open-pollinated varieties due to the maintenance of the two distinct inbred parent lines.

seeds laid out on a green surface

Open-pollinated Seeds

Open-pollinated seeds are more diverse than hybrid varieties because the pollination process is left to nature. This may lead to an increase in survival rate and can be advantageous in the event of a newly emerged plant epidemic or other extreme stressors that hybrids are not bred to withstand. Open-pollinated seeds allow growers to breed and save their own seeds. However, these varieties are often less vigorous than their hybrid counterparts. Their lack of uniformity can be disadvantageous for marketing purposes and growers using large machinery.

Open-pollinated seeds will resemble parent plants as long as cross-pollination with different varieties is prevented. Therefore, growers must maintain distance between plants. Continuously selecting the best plants from an open-pollinated variety may promote a population adapted to local conditions. This can be very useful to growers who wish to make plant breeding decisions like amplifying certain traits.

To learn more about plant reproduction watch our ‘monoecious vs dioecious’ and ‘reproductive plant parts’ Youtube videos.

Looking to purchase seeds? Click here for a list of local seed producers.


What’s the difference? Open-Pollinated, Heirloom & Hybrid Seeds

How to Choose? Open Pollinated vs. Hybrid Varieties

The advantages of Plant Hybridization