Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Unstable Genetics

Collecting germplasm is a key step for any plant breeding project. For the amateur plant breeder, this can seem like an arduous task. Fortunately, you can take a quick shortcut by saving seeds from hybrid plants. A hybrid plant will be heterozygous for many alleles, because it was made by crossing two (more or less) unrelated plants. The seeds produced by a hybrid will be segregating out a diverse set of different combinations of the alleles.

Growing these seeds means you may get some plants that are simply worthless, or wonderful in your eyes. Farmers (or others wanting a precise and predictable crop) won't generally accept this uncertainty. (This is probably why there is so much online dismissing the idea of saving seeds from hybrids.) However, if you're ok with each plant being unique and changing from year to year, this may be exactly the sort of thing you're looking for.

Some small plant breeders sell seeds from the unstable early stages of their breeding projects. The good ones will be entirely clear about the unstable nature of the seeds they're selling. The bad ones won't even let you know there is an issue. I have no connection to the breeders I've linked to below, but they seem to be up-front about how their seeds are not a stable end-product of a breeding program. Their seeds should give you plenty of variation to work with.

Seed Sources:

If you know of any other vendors offering similar seeds, please let me know!

More sources added after first posting: