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Hybrid Seed ?

Is that seed you are growing really a hybrid ? Only the seed companies really know and they aren't telling. But many of us tomato growers have saved seed from our favorite plants and found that there really isn't much if any difference when we grow out those seeds. Why ? Probably because it's all about MONEY, what else.

Seed companies are large multi-national companies and there are really only about 5 companies in the world that grow the majority of all the seed we use today. Sure there are lots of seed catalog companies, but only a few companies that do the actual growing any more. There are a few family companies that still grow their own seed, but very few.

That's one of the reason groups like Seed Savers Exchange came into being. Way too many of the good old varieties were being lost as the seed companies no longer produced them.

Here is info that is a bit technical but explains why you CAN save seed from tomato and pepper hybrids and probably will get a good plant and very likely the exact same plant. I hope I took enough  quotes to explain the concept without taking so much that there would be a copyright issue. I believe this book is out of print but you can find it on Amazon as a used book. There also is a newer edition of the book listed on Amazon. It's well worth getting one of them if you are into gardening and/or seed saving.

The following quotes are taken from "Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties" by Carol Deppe copyright 1993

For crops that are normally inbreeding or that are outbreeding but don't show much inbreeding depression, there is usually only a small advantage to hybrids, if any. The major reason we have so many tomato, squash, and melon hybrids is proprietary - it is simply better for the seed company (if it can fool us into using them). In most cases, however, it isn't necessarily better for us.
p. 122

Peas, beans, and many other largely inbreeding crops don't lend themselves to the production of hybrids. In addition, there isn't much to be gained, because they don't display inbreeding depression. There are, however, many hybrid tomato varieties, and tomatoes also are inbreeders. A hybrid tomato industry is possible only because most tomatoes produce several hundred seeds per hand-pollination.

There are many open-pollinated lines of tomatoes that are as good as even the best of the hybrids. I believe the major reason that there are hybrid tomatoes is the proprietary one - seed companies would rather have us grow something only they can produce. The hybrids are generally not superior to all available open-pollinated varieties, and in many cases they may not be hybrids at all. They are open-pollinated lines that the seed companies would prefer to have us believe are hybrids.

In a number of cases, especially with tomatoes and various cucurbits, if you inbreed a so-called hybrid variety, you see no segregation in the next and all subsequent generations. That is, the variety behaves exactly as if it were a pure breeding variety. It's possible that the hybrid came from a cross between two varieties that were identical for all genes involving plant size, shape, and form; leaf size, shape, and form; and so on, but were different for something invisible, such as disease resistance. But I suspect that in most cases where no obvious segregation occurs when we inbreed a supposed F-1, hybrid, it is because it is not an F-1 hybrid; it is a pure breeding variety. It's easy to see why false claims of hybrid status might be advantageous and profitable.
p. 123

I began to suspect the status of hybrids a number of years ago when I inbred a couple of corn varieties and saw no segregation for anything. A few years later I remarked to Alan Kapuler that I thought many "hybrids" might not be hybrids at all. His response? "Aha! So you've noticed that too!" I suspect that pseudohybrids might be very common, especially in crops that don't have severe inbreeding depression and that have to be hand-pollinated for hybrid production - especially in ones that don't produce many seeds.

Clearly, the first thing to do when you would like an open-pollinated variety instead of a hybrid is to inbreed the hybrid one generation and see what happens. The seed company could be bluffing. Why not call the bluff? If you raise twenty or so putative F2 progeny and see no segregation, you probably already have your desired open-pollinated variety. Any open-pollinated variety falsely identified as a hybrid is a public domain variety. This doesn't help the public, though, unless we know about it.
p. 124

Inbreeding Depression
The tomato, a natural inbreeder, does not display inbreeding depression.
p 208

Hybrid Seed Industry
There is an extensive hybrid seed industry for tomatoes, even though they don't display inbreeding depression and thus there is no special biological advantage to the hybrids. The best open-pollinated varieties of tomatoes are as vigorous as the best hybrid varieties. The major reason for the industry is the financial advantage to seed companies in producing and promoting proprietary varieties that no one else can multiply. A secondary reason is that many dominant genes for disease resistance can be combined to obtain multiple-disease-resistant F-1, hybrids. It takes longer to obtain stable uniform varieties that incorporate them.

Commercial hybrid seed production depends on hand-emasculating and handpollinating the plants. Genetic male sterility has started to be used in making hybrids. This saves the emasculation step, but handpollination is still required. Hybrid tomato seed is economical to produce because the plants and produce are high-value ones for which people will tolerate high seed costs, because each successful pollination produces two hundred or more seeds, and because hybrid seed is mostly produced in Taiwan with inexpensive but skilled labor.

It appears that many tomato varieties being sold in the United States as hybrid seed are actually open-pollinated. See the discussion of pseudohybrids in Chapters 9 and 10.
p 209

My own personal experiences are much the same as Ms. Deppe and Mr. Kapuler. I started saving and growing some varieties that I knew were hard to find or actually had been discontinued by the seed companies. Occasionally you get a warning about it. A couple of times I had bought larger amounts and then noticed that the variety was no longer in the catalogs. Just got lucky on a couple of varieties.

Of the several dozen varieties I've saved, I will grow out MY saved seed along side some of the commercial seed so I can compare to see if there is any segregation or reverting back to parental lines. So far I have seen little or no reverting. The few "odd plants" I sometimes see can usually be traced back to plant mix-ups in the greenhouse. An orange fruited plant in a pink variety is pretty obviously not a revertion but a screw-up. It's hard to get good help some years.

Because I'm in a rather short growing season area, it can take a couple of years to figure all this out and get a decent amount of seed. Especially if you have a year like we had in 07. While I was able to evaluate many of the tomatoes, I didn't get any seed due to horrible weather conditions. But as a long time grower of almost 30 years now, we always hope for better growing "next year".

Saving tomato seeds is another info page in itself.

I have tried using the fermentation techniques in some of the books with little success. I got enough seed but with very poor germination. So for the last several years I've saved my tomato seed just like I save my pepper seed. I've germination tested the seed and most of the batches I've saved the last few years are better than 90% germination. I don't think you can ask for better than that. The biggest problem I had with the tomato seed is it needs to dry FAST or it will start to sprout right on the drying tray.

I will do a better page on "saving seeds" another time.

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