Hybrid Plants – Uniformity and Adaptability

You are using them, but do you know what they are? Hybrid plants are used by many gardeners, however, a complete understanding of these plants are in order.

People often think of a hybrid as a blending of two different plants. Mix red and white paint and you get pink. A hybrid is the result of pollinating one specific variety of a class of plants with the pollen of another genetically different variety of that class.

A hybrid can occur by chance, but within the seed industry or with plant breeders, hybrids are the result of the cross breeding of carefully chosen parent plants that produce offspring that will have special desirable qualities.

Parent plants which are selected to be the females and produce seed have their pollen bearing anthers removed and they received only pollen from those plants that have been selected as their partners or mates. This can be done because most plants have both male and female parts and can pollinate themselves. Manipulating the pollination process can result in the offspring having certain genetic characteristics from both parents. The offspring (seed) of this cross is called an F1 Hybrid. The seeds from this cross will be very uniform in plant habit, and carry a combination of traits from the parents.

Hybrids are developed and used because they exhibit certain qualities which are desirable to growers or gardeners. Better adaptability to a certain environment, disease resistance, greater uniformity, larger flowers, extended blooming period, early maturity of fruit, greater resistance to pests and other pluses are the valid reasons for taking the time to develop hybrid plants.

With F1 Hybrids, the breeder can own an exclusive right on that variety. Only the breeder knows exactly what two parents were chosen to produce the seed. Through the process of breeding we find new and better varieties. Not every F1 Hybrid is a winner. Some are desirable and some are not.

Standard varieties or open-pollinated plants are still usable. These varieties are normally grown in fields where they self or cross pollinate. Seeds that result will produce plants that are somewhat similar, but not usually as uniform as hybrids. In many situations the best result come from using hybrids. Hybrids or standards, the choice is all yours.