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Monday, February 2, 2009

Are Commercial Hybrid Seeds really Necessary?

Hi ,

As a farmer and plant breeder I feel compelled to call attention to the myriad of reasons to plant heirloom and locally adapted seeds. Through selecting the best performing plants in a population, farmer bred heirlooms have had to evolve with nutures panopoly of pests, disease and climate stress. Consequently, they develop horizontal resistance to disease (stress, etc) which remains largely effective despite mutations in the pathogen (eg. downy mildew race 1,2, 3 ,4, 5 etc). Horizontal resistance is the result of population breeding, wherein a suite of diverse genetics is maitained that can infer secondary benfits to growers planting these seeds. For instance if I focus on breeding for cold tolerance in a broccoli I may also be selcting inadvertantly for aphid resistance of increased phytonutrient content. Commercial hybrids are bred for vertical disese resistance to s specific race of a pathogen. Once the pathogen evolves, that resistance is rendered ineffective. Further, a handful of multinational corporations control over 90% of the vegetable seed market and their marketing focus is F1 hybrids thereby discouraging gardeners and farmers to save their own seeds. Consider that Monsanto recently bought the world's largest vegetable seed company (Seminis) making them one of the largest seed companies in the world. Think about that when you buy your hybrid "Early Girl" tomaotes - money in Monsanto's pocket. While the hybridization process infers heterosis which increases vigor in some instances, the benfits can only truly be seen in a small group of families (namely corn, broccoli). Classical or traditional plant breeding can acheive or surpass the results of propritary hybrid breeding programs.

Also - Seven Seeds Farm is commerating its 13th season farming in Williams with the birth of Siskiyou Seed - which picks up where Al Vanet and Shryl Lee's SOW Organic Seeds left off. We will have locally grown certified organic seed racks at the General Store, Chet's Nursery, the Ashland Co-op and in Ruch within the next few weeks. Our offerings are the culmination of what has proven sucessful in many years of homestead gardening here in Williams. Our favorite chestnut varieities will be represented in the vegetable, fruit, flower culinary herb seeds we will be selling.
feel free to email us for a seed list if you would like to place an order before I finish assembling the seed racks.
Seven Seeds farm - Don Tipping

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