Know your seeds
Growing plants from seeds is an exciting activity when it comes to gardening. Its a slow process but the benefits are worth the process. Unlike saplings plants grown from seeds tend to adjust to the growing conditions very well. The amount of care needed is way less compared to a sapling. When nurtured and cared from their birth they tend to become immune and also provides a good yield. This is going to be one big article but I assure you that the knowledge you gain in the end is worth your time.
We have heard many technical terms when it comes to seeds. We will look at those terms in brief in this article. This is a vast subject and I am trying to consolidate all in a small post so providing link to external articles as well. If you find any of these links not working kindly let me know.
The types of seeds: There are many internal classifications but we are going to only look at the broad overviews. In general seeds are broadly classified into 2 types namely
- Angiosperms aka enclosed seeds: Enclosed seeds are the ones that are formed and protected inside an ovary base. They mostly are inside a fruit. Most of the vegetables and fruits fall under this category.
- Gymnosperms aka naked seeds: Naked seeds generally lie exposed on the surface of a scale. examples include rice, maize, greens, almost all flowers.
The seed generation process is a technique used by farmers and other commercial organisations to generate commercially viable seeds for mass crop production. Before we go into the details get to know the basic classification
Heirloom seeds come from open-pollinated plants that pass on similar characteristics and traits from the parent plant to the child plant. There is no concrete definition that every gardener uses to define heirloom plants. In general, you should consider heirlooms to be seeds that are possible to regrow and pass on from one generation to the next.
One important thing to note for heirloom plants is whether they are organic or non-organic. In most cases, heirloom plants are organic because they are generally only used by small-scale gardeners who do not use pesticide or other harmful chemicals. However, there may be minor cases when chemicals do get involved since heirloom plants do not always have a similar level of innate protection that hybrid and GMO plants provide against diseases and pests.
Remember, heirloom refers to the heritage of a plant, while organic refers to a growing practice. They are two different things.
Hybrids: Hybrid seed is seed produced by cross-pollinated plants. Hybrid seed production is predominant in agriculture and home gardening. Hybrids are chosen to improve the characteristics of the resulting plants, such as better yield, greater uniformity, improved color & disease resistance. Hybrid seeds will produce similar plants, however the seeds of the next generation from those hybrids will not consistently have the desired characteristics.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO): GMO seeds are produced using sophisticated and very expensive lab techniques (like retroviruses and gene guns). With this they manipulate and combine the DNA of species that could never, ever breed in nature. GMO technology allows us to “play God” in a way that even Mother Nature hasn’t dared.
Combining or splicing together genes from different organisms in the lab (without actually sexually breeding them) is known as recombinant DNA technology, and the resulting organism is said to be “genetically modified,” “genetically engineered,” or “transgenic.”
RoundUp-Ready crops are plants that have had their DNA manipulated with bacterial genes to withstand heavy, repeated applications of the herbicide RoundUp, also called glyphosate.
Read through this article for more information.
Heirloom, Hybrid or GMO?
There are some distinct differences that one should be aware of when it comes to heirloom, hybrid and GMO plants.
Heirloom plants: The only ones that breed true. As mentioned earlier, this means the same characteristics are passed on from generation to generation. The same cannot be said for hybrid and GMO.
Hybrid plants: Produced when different varieties of plants are cross-pollinated, which can happen with or without human intervention. Because there are different varieties of plants involved, it can’t be guaranteed that the offspring of hybrid plants produces identical traits as the parent plant.
Both heirloom and hybrid plants can be viewed as natural occurrences.
GMO plants: GMO plants, can only be produced using unnatural methods such as gene splicing. Scientists essentially modify a seed’s DNA to ensure the resulting plant produces the desired traits and characteristics.
The crop modification process used in Hybrid and GMO seed production is something unique. Rather than me briefing it I would encourage you to read through the article here for knowledge base. For those of you who wish not to skip my blog here is a picture borrowed from the site 🙂
Organically produced seeds are pure native varieties and also treated and stored using traditional methods making them viable even after years. With appropriate soil conditions and traditional methods organic seeds can give you a decent produce for a longer period.
So what’s organic? Organic produce is not generated with synthetic pesticide and is much lower in overall pesticide residue. The widely used herbicide Glyphosate (Roundup) is not used in organic produce. The seeds are not treated with toxic hexane. Read through the below table to understand the difference between organic and non gmo.
|usage of synthetic pesticides||NO||YES|
|Chemical boosters/ Soil promoters||NO||YES|
|Natural boosters/ soil promoters||YES||NO|
|Seeds treated with chemicals/ preservatives||NO||YES|
Hope this article helped you in understanding the basics of how organic seeds are produced. Let me know your thoughts on this article.