Saving Seeds from your favorite plants of the season is not only saving you money but also feels wonderful. Planting a seed, caring for your plant while it grows, harvesting its fruits, and saving its seeds; Completing the cycle and being part of every step in your plants’ lives makes growing vegetables particularly marvelous.
Can you save Seeds from hybrid plants? Saving Seeds from Hybrid plants is certainly possible but might reap some unexpected results. Hybrid plants often aren’t true to type, making their offspring vulnerable to expressing undesirable or suppressed traits of the parent generation.
To discuss saving hybrid seeds, we first have to understand what hybrid plants actually are and how they usually pollinate.
What are Hybrid seeds
Hybrid plants are a cross from two different varieties of the same plant species. Most hybrid plants are produced by manually cross-pollinating them; Pollen from the male part of one plant is transferred to the second plant’s stigma.
The first resulting generation is called an f1 hybrid and can express traits from both parent plants in varying degrees. Usually, the results are subpar and will be discarded. But sometimes, the offspring adopts all desired traits from both parent plants, making it a viable option.
Open-Pollinated varieties stabilized their genetic material over years of repetitive breeding. Their seeds will produce true-to-type offspring, given that they don’t cross-pollinate with another member of the same species (making a hybrid). New Hybrids (f1) lack this natural stability making them extremly unstable.
Are seeds from Hybrid plants sterile
Seeds from hybrid plants are not sterile. They sometimes reap unexpected results, but they are almost always able to produce some offspring. Only seedless hybrid plants are truly sterile.
There is a whole other discussion to be had about true sterile Seeds referred to as Terminator seeds, but they aren’t produced by natural hybridization.
The big question remains, what will happen if you save seeds from your own hybrid plant?
What happens when you save hybrid seeds
Saving hybrid seeds is like rolling a dice. You might end up with something that closely resembles the parent plant, shows all favorable traits, and tastes astonishing. Or you end with a plant that lost some/most of its advantageous traits, tastes awful, or lacks productivity.
Should you save hybrid seeds? Defiantly! Saving hybrid seeds for multiple generations will allow them to stabilize and adjust to your local climate or diseases. Growing saved hybrid seeds can be very exciting as you never know what might come out of it.
But be aware, sometimes results can result in plants that no longer are worth saving or outright redevelop dangerous traits. Discarding a plant isn’t easy, but occasionally it has to be done.
How do stabilize hybrid seeds
To stabilize a hybrid seed (F1), you first have to grow a considerable amount of the variety. Save a decent amount of seeds from this first generation (~50-100) and regrow them the next season.
The plant now reaches its second generation (F2); here, you want to select the fruits closely resembling the first-generation harvest. Rinse and repeat for the next 8-10 generations, and your seeds should be stable. At this point, your seed is classified as open-pollinated, meaning it doesn’t lose its traits or characteristics when saving its seeds.
During this process, you have to ensure there is no cross-pollination taken place. A new hybrid will form when two different plants of the same species mix. This hybrid can be treated as any other first-generation (F1) hybrid.
Sometimes you hit the jackpot, and seeds from cross-pollinated plants show just the perfect traits or have a unique look. This makes for a great candidate to stabilize, developing your very own variety in the process. However, it’s important to remember that cross-pollinated seeds only show their new characteristics after being saved and regrown. There is no way to tell if a plant was accidentally cross-pollinated – that’s why commercially produced hybrids are artificially pollinated.
Which hybrid seeds are best to save
My favorite hybrid plants for seed saving are:
- Pumpkins (see next part)
Why hybrid seeds shouldn’t be saved
There are two reasons, why you might consider not saving any hybrid seeds.
- Loss of Productivity: Saved seeds from hybrid plants often lose their “hybrid vigor.” Also known as Heterosis, this phenomenon is known to increase growth-rate, resilience, and productivity greatly. Usually, this genetic support is lost with the second generation of a hybrids plant. On the other hand, your plants will adjust to your local climate and soil, resulting in higher productivity over time. In short, it’s mostly a temporary trade-off and shouldn’t be the lone reason to avoid saving hybrid seeds.
- Dangers of Back-crossing: The second generation of hybrid plants tend to resurface some traits of their grandparents’ generation. This can result in plants that show aspects that weren’t present in the F1 variety. This usually isn’t much of an issue except that some plants can redevelop poisonous traits. Squash are a prime example of this, as they can contain a poison called cucurbitacin E. causing toxic squash syndrome. Usually, you’d be hard-pressed to eat a Zucchini with a high cucurbitacin concentration, as they taste bitter. So bitter that even a small amount can ruin a whole pan of food. Mostly older people suffer from side-effects of consuming a poisonous squash due to a loss of taste. I usually avoid saving Zucchini seeds for that reason.