A great article from one of my colleagues in Cherokee County has made sense of the ever changing seed catalog. And with our winter time wrapping up, we need to be prepared to not only order our favorite vegetables, but also understand what we are buying in a seed.
Hybrid seed, often abbreviated as F1, is a result of pollination of one genetically uniform variety with pollen from another specific genetically uniform variety. Hybrid seeds are produced in a very controlled manner and are often done by hand; which results in more expensive seed. The result is to produce more desired characteristics like: disease or drought resistance, uniformity, and outstanding fruit or flower production. The only downside to hybrid seed is that plants grown from them will not produce seed that is reliably similar to the parent plant.
Open pollinated (OP), sometimes referred as heirloom (H) or standard (S) seed has more stable characteristics from one generation to the next. Because open pollinated plants were often chosen for one or two characteristics and adapted to different regions of the country individual plants of these varieties may differ greatly in size, shape, and other characteristics. If you plan on growing more than one variety of open pollinated plants you may have to separate plants by a certain distance or utilize varying planting times so flowers are not present in close proximity or at the same time in order to collect seed that is true to type.
When looking for tomatoes in a catalog you will notice a veritable alphabet soup of acronyms like “TMV”, “Vt”, and “EB”. These are common diseases that effect tomatoes; TMV refers to the tobacco mosaic virus, Vt refers to verticillium wilt a soil-borne disease, and EB refers to early blight which is a leaf disease. Plant breeders have worked to breed in resistance or tolerance to these common diseases.
Tomato seeds may also be categorized as “determinate” or “indeterminate”. Determinate varieties tend to be shorter, more compact plants that produce the majority of the crop at one time. Indeterminate varieties will get tall and need caging or staking to keep them off the ground. They tend to produce more over a longer period in the garden.
Although planting seems a far distance from this cold February week, we all know it will be here very soon. So, make sure you do your homework and order the seed you know will produce instead of waiting until the last minute and only getting the leftovers at the store.
For more information or questions, contact Effingham County Extension agent Sam Ingram at 754-8040 or email@example.com