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Stella Blue
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Heirloom vs Hybrid: Seed saving question.

Hi again all. I'm looking into saving seeds, and am confused about something. Now I understand when saving seeds from hybrids, the next plants can revert back to the qualities of one of its parents.

Now with heirlooms, being grown in proximity to other heirlooms of a different variety is where I get confused. If these different varieties cross pollinate, will the qualities of the next plants from the saved seeds be altered due to cross pollination with other nearby plants of a different variety?

As always, thank you very much in advance for your knowledge and advice.

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Greener Thumb
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Yup, but not 100% of the time - especially if you've got some varieties that bloomed earlier and others later (for these, the first fruits off of the earliest blooming one will be true, and the rest will be a tossup). For me, at least, that's half the fun of open-pollination - I'm never quite sure what the next crop is going to be, so I get several months of suspense waiting for the new varieties.

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Stella Blue
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Thank you Lorax. It does sound like fun to see what happens next year. So, if I want to breed for certain characteristics over time, it seems that I have to only stick to one variety in my garden, which I find to be a bit constricting. Decisions, decisions.

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Greener Thumb
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you can very easily just hand pollinate one or two tomatoes and they will have more than enough seed in them for next year if your worried about cross pollination, i actually like it.
Last edited by soil on Tue Nov 09, 2010 4:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Though this is no guarantee, I have garden beds on opposite sides of the house. I plant different varieties of same crop that may cross pollinate in these separate beds. I have been able to grow different varieties of corn this way, though insect-pollinated plants may still be subject to cross-pollination.

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With some vegetables, you have less to be concerned about than with others.

For example, my experience has been that peppers cross quite readily. If I want to save seed, I'd better isolate the variety wanted.

Fedco probably is reliable in their advice:

Notice that some vegetables are listed as "self" in the pollination column. As Fedco says, ". . . self-pollinated (selfers) usually reproduce by using their own pollen." Note the word "usually." Still, I have grown a pole bean and saved the seed for years. Most of the bean plants in the garden are bush beans but not once has there been a bush bean characteristic from the pole bean seed that I've planted.

Also, seed can be kept for a few years. You could allow one lettuce variety to make seed one year and a different variety the next. Since lettuce is harvested for the kitchen before it bolts to seed - just make sure that you only have 1 variety flowering during any year.

I hope that helps encourage you to save seed :).

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I read here that even if a tomato cross-pollinates, not all of the seed will be crossed. I'm sure how true this is, though.
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It is almost impossible for a bee to 100% cross pollinate a tomato flower because the tomato's own pollen is released around the stigma, which the bee doesn't necessarily have to touch. The action of the bee causes a cloud of self pollen to be released, but the bee doesn't have to touch the stigma for this to happen. There is a lot of variation among varieties as to the length of the stigma, thus how easy it is for a bee to contact it. I posted some links to pictures in the tomato forum a while back showing how the bees do their business.

Peppers have anthers much further away from the stigma so it is easier for a "dirty" bee to contribute more pollen. The bee has to crawl around on the flower to get what it wants.

Potatoes have a flower structure similar to a tomato, but the stigma and pollen are often not mature at the same time so the flower can be cross pollinated days before the plant's own pollen is released.

And to take this one step further, squashes have different male and female flowers so the flower can't self pollinate. Its cross pollination ratio is dependant on the pollen mixture on the bees. I often see several bees in a single squash blossom, especially early in the morning, and they hang out for a long time.

Many fruit tree varieties are self incompatible so nearly 100% of the seeds on any pear tree will crossed.

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