WHICH F1 HYBRID VEGETABLE SEEDS ARE WORTH THE MONEY?

WHICH F1 HYBRID VEGETABLE SEEDS ARE WORTH THE MONEY?

Article by David Haigh
























Browse through the new crop of seed catalogues and you could be forgiven for wondering how gardeners ever grew a decent crop of vegetables before the days of F1 hybrids.

So what exactly are F1 hybrid seeds and is it worth paying all that extra money for them.

The plants of an F1 hybrid variety all have the same genetic complement. This makes them all look the same and perform in the same way

The plant breeder selects parent lines which, when crossed, will produce offspring with desirable characteristics including vigour, uniform maturity, ability to freeze well and so on. It may well take several generations before worthwhile parent lines are identified. Seed from F1 hybrid plants does not come true and in the next (F2) generation the seedlings will be of variable genetic make-up. Most importantly for plant breeders who have spent several years of expensive effort prior to launching a new variety, they can keep close control of the parent lines. This ensures that their varieties cannot be pirated. That is why F1 hybrid seed is so expensive.

The proliferation of F1 hybrid seeds has largely been fuelled by the demands from commercial growers who in turn have had to bow to supermarket pressure for uniform produce with a long shelf life and eye appeal. Growers are always looking for new varieties which have greater disease resistance, quality and yield.F1 hybrids are bred to meet all these criteria.

But are F1s worth it for gardeners? Well sometimes, but not always. In the case of cabbages there are many more hybrids available than standard (open pollinated) varieties. The crops may well be uniform and all plants mature at the same time, but who wants all their cabbages exactly the same size and all ready on the same day. I would rather pay 85p (.7) for 350 seeds of Cabbage Greyhound than