MemberMarch 1, 2023 at 9:30 am010164
Hi Benny, Great question. Recently I had a look through the entire Johnny’s catalog. I circled everything that was a hybrid. I should go back and get an exact ratio of Hybrid to OP/Heirloom, but it was something like 90% Hybrid, with some types (like cauliflower) being 100% hybrid.
That just shows you the demand for Hybrids (consider Hybrid tomatoes being more disease resistant than Brandywines with are often dead by midsummer without major intervention). People want the hybrid vigor, but can’t tolerate the diversity from an actual diverse population. Everything needs to ripen at the same time, look exactly the same, taste the same, always stay true to type. That requires inbreeding. OP sounds great, right? But it’s OP within a very narrow population. In some cases no new genetics have been introduced for 70 years, and no matter how large the breeding population size, that’s still inbred because there’s no diversity. If there was, they wouldn’t all look the same.
So these seed companies you mentioned are stuck selling inbred heirloom varieties or Hybrids because they have to.
Farmers are stuck too, unless they can convince their customers to accept some genetic diversity. Gardeners are not stuck technically, but they’ve been told their entire lives to keep varieties to keep things ‘true to type’ before saving seed. So they are stuck in the purity mindset.
I would just like to throw this out there– seed companies and farmers feel stuck with a dichotomy– inbred or hybrid. But that doesn’t mean inbreeding isn’t a giant problem in our food system, and that needs to be addressed in a thoughtful way in regenerative agriculture, probably starting with the consumer. And commercial hybrids aren’t the solution, because of all the reasons we know about.
Ok enough from me! I’d love to hear about your customers. Do you think they would tolerate a Maxima squash population that looks like this? These are all selected for being early, delicious, and vigorous. But they’re all allowed to look different.
But also there are ways to increase diversity without sacrificing all consistency. This squash population is a little extreme 🙂 Would your customers keep coming back because your produce is more more delicious? How would a wholesaler feel?
I suspect we have both short term and long term work, in every level of our food system, to start addressing this….. Regen ag would be a great place to start.