HEIRLOOMTIPS

Should you save and recycle seeds?

(Miguel Á. Padriñán/Pexels)

By JAMES TABABA

Purchasing hybrid seeds has been the standard practice of most farmers because it promises an increased yield, improved quality, and more resistance to pests and diseases over traditional open-pollinated seeds. However, the prices of agricultural inputs, including seeds, are now increasing. This has led some farmers to consider recycling seeds from their harvest for the following cropping season. But is it advisable to use the hybrid seeds again?

READ: How to Save Seeds from Food for Planting

Hybrid seeds

Hybrid seeds or crops are the product of two superior parent plants. Through controlled pollination of the parents, they produce hybrid seeds which possess the combination of the parents’ superior traits. Unlike genetically modified seeds that have been altered in the laboratory, hybrid seeds are products of traditional breeding methods.

Hybrid seeds are developed to produce plants with higher yields and improved quality. This is one reason why most hybrid seeds are expensive. The higher cost of hybrid seeds is often due to the investment required to develop the crop. However, hybrid seeds are not meant to be saved and replanted because the resulting offspring will not have the same traits as the parent hybrid plants. As a result, farmers need to purchase new hybrid seeds each cropping season if they wish to maintain the desired characteristics of their crop.

READ: Hybrid dragon fruits give this family farm a competitive edge in the market

Open-pollinated seeds

Open-pollinated seeds are seeds that are reproduced through natural pollination methods such as wind, water, or insects. Because of the repeated cycle of natural pollination, the resulting offspring will have the same characteristics as the parent plants.  Open-pollinated seeds have been traditionally used in farming and are often associated with heirloom and heritage crop varieties.

Heirloom or heritage crops are open-pollinated crops that have been grown for many generations. Farmers preserve these crops for their unique characteristics such as flavor, texture, color, and, most especially, their adaptability to local growing conditions. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in heirloom crops driven by the concern about the loss of biodiversity since most farmers are planting the same crop varieties.

READ: Nueva Ecija homemaker grows heirloom crops in her garden

One of the advantages of open-pollinated seeds is that, unlike hybrid seeds, they can be saved and replanted every cropping season without losing their desired characteristics. This makes open-pollinated seeds a more cost-effective option for farmers.

Can you still replant hybrid seeds?

Yes. However, it is not advisable because the resulting offspring may not be as uniform as the parent crops. The offspring may produce a wide variability of characteristics that may affect the quality and yield. Moreover, some hybrid seeds are protected by plant breeder’s patents which prohibit farmers from saving and replanting seeds without permission. Misuse of patented seeds is punishable by law under the Republic Act no. 9168, or the Philippine Plant Variety Protection Act of 2002.

READ: To dry or not to dry: consider temperature when saving seeds

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