Open-pollinated (OP) means that the variety is more or less genetically stable. If a plant does not cross pollinate with another variety, the seeds from that plant should produce more plants just like it.
|All of our bean varieties are open-pollinated.|
One of the advantages of open-pollinated varieties is that with a little care you can grow your own seed for future use. Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth is an excellent book filled with information about what it takes to grow and save open-pollinated seed.
Even without cross pollination, open-pollinated seed crops need to be monitored for uniformity. Random off types need to be removed from the field to keep a variety true to type. Random off types are not always bad though. A chance genetic variation, with beneficial traits, can sometimes be grown out for several generations and with careful selection become a new open-pollinated variety.
|Heirloom Marriage™ Big Brandy:|
a hybrid of two heirloom varieties.
How an Heirloom variety is defined depends on who you ask. Most people would agree that heirlooms are older open-pollinated varieties. But what does older mean? One bench mark date is 1951, when hybrid varieties became very common in the marketplace. Some say the variety needs to have been around for more than 100 years.
Generally heirlooms are varieties that haven’t been picked up by big agribusiness and have been maintained by small scale growers and home gardeners who found something that they liked and thought it was worth keeping. Passing something down from generation to generation makes it an heirloom.
|Hooker's Sweet Indian Heirloom Corn|
So, fellow gardeners, the decision is yours. What type of seed you choose to plant probably has a lot to do with your needs. Do you want to save seed? Do you want a variety that has been around for generations? Or do you just want to grow a delicious vegetable in your own back-yard?
Author: Matthew K, Information Systems Manager